Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £74,834, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid."—[Note: £37,500 has been voted on account.]
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Earl Winterton)
In accordance with the arrangement entered into with hon. Gentlemen opposite, I rise to make my main annual statement on the course of Indian administration. Before doing so, I should like to make reference to one or two points in speeches made on the occasion of the last discussion of these Estimates with which I had not time to deal in my short reply on that occasion. First of all, the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) quoted from an American newspaper, the "New York Times," a statement by a certain Captain Arthur Herbert Vaughan-Williams. The hon. Member said that this gentleman was busy declaring that if Florida wouldask the British Government for permission to import several thousand Hindu labourers from India, such permission could be obtained easily enough. These labourers could be brought over for a period from three to five years and paid at the same rate as they were being paid at home with their board and keep provided. They could live on a handful of rice a day and it would cost little enough to keep them.The hon. Gentleman hoped that I would be able to contradict and disavow any official connection whatever with anything this gentleman had said. This I can most certainly do. I can say I know nothing of Captain Arthur Herbert Vaughan-Williams, but I do know that he is talking complete nonsense when he 1624 suggests it would be possible for him to do what he desires. I am assured that the emigration of unskilled labourers is very carefully protected by the Indian Emigration Act, which was passed through the Legislature in the year, I think, 1922 and which makes illegal the emigration of unskilled labourers to any country without a notification by the Government of India giving permission for emigration to that particular country and laying down conditions in respect of the wages and economic conditions of the emigrants. That notification cannot be effective until it has been accepted by a vote of the Legislature. I can say that not only is Government very careful not to make such a notification, except in cases where it seems desirable, but they are entirely bound by the views expressed by the Legislature.
The other matter, which was really, I think, of more importance was a reference the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) made to the fiscal position in India. I would just like to devote a minute to that. The hon. Gentleman said:I want to call attention to the fact that as the days pass Indian and other capitalists who invest their money in India, and the workmen who work for them, will want to claim the same rights for Indian industries that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite claim for British industries, namely, safeguarding. Up to the present we hold the power, and the Viceroy exercises the power, of deciding whether there shall be duties, countervailing duties or tariffs, on certain things. I do not think that this country should decide these questions for the Indian people or even for the Indian capitalists or workmen. In the end the people of Burma and India should have the right to settle these questions, and they ought not to be settled merely from the point of view of what may happen to be good for British industry at a particular moment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1927, col. 1372, Vol. 207.]I do not consider that the hon. Member, in the statement he made, gave a correct representation of the facts. It is really very important that once again the point should be reiterated that the fiscal policy of India is largely, if not entirely, conditioned by a Convention which has been growing up for some years. The principle on which His Majesty's Government act can be stated in very few words as follows:in regard to matters of tariff policy, a convention—commonly known as the Fiscal 1625 Autonomy Convention—has grown up under which, save in very exceptional cases, where the action proposed would raise international or Imperial difficulties, His Majesty's Government do not regard themselves as being at liberty to interfere after an agreement has been reached between the Government of India and the Indian Legislature.That is, and has been for years past, the ruling principle, and it certainly indicates a degree of fiscal freedom in India far beyond that which one would have supposed from listening to the words of the hon. Gentleman. I could quote, if it were necessary, to-day many examples of how that degree of fiscal freedom has operated.
The only other point to which I wish to refer—and I gave notice to the hon. Member that I was going to refer to his speech, and I am informed that reasons of health may make it difficult for him to be present—was the speech delivered by the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala). I do not think it is necessary for me to say very much about that speech, because I think on the last Debate there was a very effective exposé of his contention by the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher), but I would like to make one point about it. The hon. Member, in the speeches which he delivers in this House on Indian affairs, makes the main basis of his objection to our position in India that we are, what he describes as, alien people in that country. It is really necessary- to remind the House and the Committee that there are many in India who hold that the community to which the hon. Gentleman himself belongs is an alien community. In has only been in that country for a very small number of years compared with the time during which other communities have lived there, stretching back into the mists of antiquity as these communities do. I would only add one word about that particular community to which the hon. Gentleman belongs. It is a very loyal community and a very efficient and successful one, and has done an enormous amount to build up the Indian economic and industrial system. It has extended to the poorer members of the community a helping hand which has been absent in the case of some other communities in India. I should like only to add from my personal knowledge 1626 and experience, that the hon. Gentleman does not represent the views of one half per cent. of that community which he professes to represent in this House. So much is that the case that I may say—it may be a matter of interest to the Committee—that I have been approached by more than one distinguished Indian in public life who has asked me if I can tell him how he can get into touch with representatives of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite and Members on this side with a view to standing at an election and if successfully elected to this House to do something to counteract the idea that has apparently grown up that the hon. Gentleman does in any way represent that people.
We have an advantage from the point of view of those who take an interest in India on this occasion of having two days devoted to the India Office Vote. That is an almost unique occasion. I think that in view of the fact that it concerns the administration of some 320,000,000 people, administration for which this House still has a large measure of responsibility, no one can allege that this is an undue allowance of time for the House or the Committee to devote to the matter. But having had long experience of India Office discussions and attended most of those which took place before the War—though I do not think I ever spoke at any of them—I was not surprised to read in several organs of the provincial press that on the last occasion a number of questions were raised of no interest and that the speeches were lengthy and dealt merely with facts and figures. That, unfortunately, for years has been the attitude that a certain proportion of the press has always taken up towards Indian debates in this House. The fact is no debate on India is of any interest to people who take no interest in India. In view of the fact that India is the greatest individual customer of this country and also that the Indian people themselves find their best markets in Great Britain, a certain extra amount of time devoted to Indian affairs and to promoting interest in Indian affairs might be of benefit to what after all is a commercial country.
On the last occasion, I said that I would endeavour in the time permitted to me to say something—to quote a phrase 1627 used in the Annual Blue Book which the Government of India issue—about "The moral and material progress" of the people of India during the last decade. In dealing with this subject, one is confronted at the outset by the fact that there are two sharply conflicting schools of opinion. One school, whilst grudgingly admitting certain benefits of Britsh rule in India or, rather, the British connection to India, contends that at the end of the 150 years or more of that connection the great bulk of the population remains as miserably poor, diseased. ignorant and underfed as before. This school of opinion, held by certain Indian extremists and supported by a section of opinion among people in this country, very few of whom have ever been to India or have had any real experience of Indian conditions, goes on to urge that all this will be changed when India has Swaraj, though they never say by what method that is to be brought about. The other school of opinion, whilst admitting the many evidences of an inadequate margin of subsistence among Indian workers, claims that there has been a great improvement since the British have been in India, that that improvement would have been greater but for the lack of co-operation and the obstructive attitude, due to the inherited views and customs, of Indians themselves, and at the same time asserts that the progressive growth of Indianisation in the Services and the devolution of power to Indians both in the Government of India and in the Provinces has resulted in such a deterioration of administration as to injure the interests of the masses in the last few years.
I, personally, and I am also speaking on behalf of the Government, un hesitatingly and emphatically reject the first school of opinion, and I think the views of the second school of opinion cannot. be accepted in their totality, at any rate without considerable qualification. I should like to state a few general considerations to rebut both these points of view, before coming to closer grips with my subject and going into detail. In the first place, I doubt whether all Members of the Committee realise the extent to which administration of the nature which we call in this country "local government"—I am using the term in its 1628 British sense and not in its Indian sense is in the hands—of Indians themselves, elected by Indians without official control. Take, for instance, municipalities and districts and local boards. What is the position there? They have been in existence about half a century and their right to manage their own affairs without official control has been greatly increased during the last five years. The functions of municipalities are similar to those of municipalities in this country, and the functions of local boards in rural areas are very similar to those of county councils and rural district councils in this country.
I am well aware that a survey of the activities of these bodies would not be in Order on any occasion in this House or in Committee, because neither the Secretary of State nor the Government of India have constitutionally any control over them. The only control which the Provincial Governments in India exercise is the power in the last resort of superseding these bodies, as has been done in the case of certain local authorities in this country. I wish therefore merely to add that my information is that some of these authorities have performed their duties satisfactorily and others have not done so. Many Indians, including Mr. Gandhi himself, have drawn attention to the deliquencies of some of these local authorities. Some time ago there was a statement by Mr. Gandhi in regard to his visit to a certain municipality and the conduct of certain members, all of whom were Indians, and many supporters of his own party, and he stated that unless they were prepared to put their own house in order and do away with many of the scandals which he saw there, it would greatly weaken the case which he and other Indians had put forward for full Swaraj. The point is, and I would emphasise this as strongly as I can, that a great deal of the health and welfare of the individual Indian depends upon how these authorities do their work, and the results, whether they be good or bad, mainly depend upon the efforts of Indians themselves. In these matters they have Swaraj now, and that is a fact which we should always bear in mind when we are discussing health matters, water supply and things of that kind.
1629 Let me turn to education. Education is a transferred provincial subject. It is true that it may be held that the present dyarchical system of Government provides inadequate financial stimulus for transferred subjects [Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I say that it may be, because s long as ways and means and finance in general are not matters for which Ministers are responsible, and so long as the Reserved Departments can be represented as having first call on the provincial funds, it is always possible for Ministers and their followers to persuade themselves that the principle that you cannot have social service without paying for it, does not apply to them. The fact remains that the actual power to extend education lies very largely in Indian hands. I cannot, because it would be perhaps wrong and out of Order for me to do so, give an extensive and detailed account of the progress of education in India, in view of the fact that it is a transferred subject, but I will give some examples. I have devoted a good deal of time to the study of this question and I will try to give typical examples and not merely those which help my case of what is being done in regard to education in a number of provinces in India.
Take the Punjab. The number of pupils in schools has increased in four years by nearly 400,000 to a total enrolment of over 900,000, and the percentage of pupils to the total population increased in the same period from 2.7 per cent. to 4.5 per cent. The Committee may say that that is miserably small, but at the same time they must admit that the percentage increase has been a very large one, and this has been brought. about under the present system of government. I learn from the Report of the Punjab Government that primary education is making great strides and that compulsory primary education has rapidly expended. Compulsion was in force in more than 400 rural areas in the Province. The Report states that certain municipalities still hesitate to put compulsion into force on the ground of the increased cost involved in doing so, but it was pointed out by the Director of Public Instruction in the Province that compulsion could be regarded as a guarantee that the money being spent on education was being spent to the greatest advantage and in the 1630 most fruitful manner, because it ensured that the boys would remain at school long enough to obtain a firm grasp of literacy.
Take Madras. In the year ending March, 1925, there were 460,000 girls attending all grades of schools, against 430,000 in the previous year. Thirty-six women were studying medicine in the Province. A decade ago it would have been regarded as very remarkable that 36 Indian women should be studying medicine. Take Bengal. Here education has shown steady progress in all its branches in the last year. The total number of educational institutions in the Province increased by 1,200 to 57,000, and the number of recognised schools of all kinds for Indian girls rose by over 4 per cent. to 13,500. In regard to Bengal, it is worth noting that in this Province in 1924 there occurred a striking example of the attempted injury to social progress which from time to time results from the obstructive attitude of the Swarajist party.
As the Committee will doubtless remember, the Bengal Legislative Council refused to vote the salaries of Ministers in that year, and in consequence the Ministry of Education was dissolved in August, 1924, and the Governor had to assume charge of the department. But the Swarajists went further. Some time afterwards they refused by their votes the grant for the salaries of the inspecting officers under the Ministry of Education. The set-back was only temporary, because the necessary provision was restored in the Supplementary Budget, which was passed, shortly afterwards, and I am glad to say that under the present Council, Ministers are functioning and the Ministry of Education among them. It is, however, desirable to place on record this characteristic piece of Swarajist folly when considering the progress of education in the Province in question.
In Bombay again we see evidences of the great attention which has been paid to education in recent years. For example—the Committee will be interested in this fact—the education of the depressed classes has been taken seriously in hand. The Government have issued orders that no disabilities are to be imposed on the children of these classes in any school conducted by a public authority in its own or in a hired school, and that where 1631 schools are held in buildings or temples from which the depressed classes are excluded, other arrangements must be made without delay. I am glad to say that that arrangement has on the whole been carried out with little friction in some villages, and that where schools are held in temples the children of the depressed classes have been accommodated in a shed erected elsewhere in the village. It is interesting, in referring to the education of the depressed classes, to note that in one area of the City of Bombay where compulsory education has been introduced, it has had the effect of providing a solution to the untouchability question in schools. Some five years ago, Dr. Paranjpye, who is now a member of the Council of India and was Minister of Education in the Bombay Presidency, was instrumental in passing through the Council a Bill which gives power to local authorities in the Presidency to make education compulsory in their area. That Act has only been put into operation in a few places, but it has been put into operation in parts of the area of Bombay City, and it has had the effect of finding a solution to the untouchability question in schools. No distinction whatever is made between the children of the untouchables and those of the higher classes. That, I think, we must all agree is a very satisfactory result.
Those are only a few of the many instances which I could give of the progress of education in the different Presidencies and Provinces of India, and I hope the Committee will agree that progress in education, if still slow—I am not denying that it is—is real and substantial. I hope the Committee will once again permit me to recall the fact, that the extent of the rate of progress rests entirely in the hands of Indians themselves. I spoke earlier of the charge so freely and so irresponsibly made against the British in India and against this House, in so far as it controls through the Secretary of State the policy of the Government of India, of failing to effect an appreciable improvement in the condition of the people since we have been responsible for the government of that country. It may be urged that what I have just said about the devolution of power to Indians themselves in many matters affecting the health and happiness 1632 of the people dates only from recent years; that whether the change has been for good or evil, it does not affect our responsibility for so many years previously, and that what our Indian critics grudgingly admit we have done in the matter of giving law and order, justice, and comparative peace as well as. economic development of all sorts, such as ports, roads, railways, irrigation and the like, have failed to achieve the goal at which all decent-minded persons must aim, and that is a real improvement in the prospects, outlook and standard of living of the masses.
In my opinion, the answer to that big question is two-fold. In the first place, I shall endeavour to show by chapter and verse that there has been, so far as can be ascertained, an improvement in the economic conditions of the masses in recent years. In the second place, the Government in India, and by that I mean the Government of India and Presidency and Provincial Governments, have never at any time had full control of those factors which a Government in Europe or America can use as a lever to economic progress. No Government can successfully appeal to a populace to raise its economic level by self-help when that populace contains a large proportion of people by whom this life and material progress in this life are regarded as of no importance. Here, indeed, our critics confound each other. On the one hand, we are told that we are purely materialists, that our roads and our railways and mills make no appeal and ought to make no appeal to the soul of India. We have been told this by Mr. Ghandi. On the other hand, we are accused by other critics of an utter indifference to the material prosperity of the people. Yet it is broadly true to say that almost every man who goes out from this country to India, and it applies to many other parts of the East as well, to carry on administrative posts of any kind is filled with a real and fundamental desire to improve the economic status of the people with whom he comes in contact. It is his life's work, and it is almost pathetic to see the real sorrow which fills the heart and soul of a man who has spent his life in the administration in India, who has built up the administration in his district to a certain point, and then, owing 1633 to proper rules for retirement, is forced to leave his work and hand it on to another.
What is the difficulty—I do not want to say anything which will in the slightest degree wound the feelings of our Indian fellow subjects—which such a man almost always finds himself up against? It is the apathy and indifference of the people themselves, not so much from ignorance, but from deep rooted and inherent views on this life and the next. Take those matters over which the Government has not, cannot, and ought not to have any control; such things as religious observances and customs. I do not presume to criticise. It would be grossly improper for me to do so, but it is quite obvious that such matters as caste, with its accompaniments of depressed classes, child marriages, the prohibition of the slaughter of animals, even when old and diseased, must have a profound bearing on such questions as the opportunities open to an individual, the vitality of the people, and the position of agriculture. They make a comparison with Western standards and ideals profoundly and completely fallacious. I do not say that they are higher or lower than those ideals, and I hope no one will attempt to make a comparison. I would only add, in justice to all concerned, that many of these matters of religious custom which I have mentioned have been for a long time under the fierce scrutiny of Indians themselves, and that many possible future changes are discernible. I would quote two or three instances. The other day I came across an article in the paper which Mr. Ghandi edits, called "Young India," dated 26th August, 1926. In it he was quoting with approval from an article on the subject of child marriages and enforced widowhood:It is sapping the vitality of thousands of our promising boys and girls on whom the future of our society entirely rests. It is bringing into existence every year thousands of weaklings, both boys and girls, who are born of immature parents. It is a very fruitful source of the appalling child mortality and stillbirths now prevailing in our society. It is a very important cause of the gradual and steady decline of Hindu society in point of numbers, physical strength and courage and morality.That is a quotation from an article which is quoted with approval by Mr. Ghandi himself. Let me quote something even 1634 stronger, from a gentleman well known to many in this House, with whom certainly one right hon. Gentleman opposite and myself have been acquainted for a great many years past, Mr. Lajpat Rai[...], speaking before a Hindu Conference in Bombay in 1925, said this of the system of widowhood that prevails in the Hindu community, and especially child widowhood:The condition of child widows is indescribable. God may bless those who are opposed to their re-marriage, but their position induces so many abuses and brings about so much moral and physical misery as to cripple society as a whole and handicap it in the struggle for life.Those are two rather striking quotations from Indians themselves. I will make an earnest appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee not to ignore these factors when dealing with the moral and physical progress of the Indian people.
I now come to what has been done by European and Indian co-operation, through Government or voluntary agency, in such diverse but cognate subjects, where the strengthening of a nation is concerned, as progress in the national finances, in railways, irrigation, industrial legislation and welfare, research and voluntary co-operative buying and selling in agriculture, housing, infant welfare and the like. But, first of all, I wish to say a few words about the financial position. There was, I am glad to say, no interruption last year in the favourable series of monsoons which India has enjoyed in the last few years. The Indian export position last year showed a reduction compared with the previous financial year. In 1926–27 the exports were 309 crores and in 1925–26 they were 385 crores. That reduction was largely due to the great fall in the price of cotton, a fall which came as a surprise both to producers and manufacturers all over the world. It has not had the beneficial effect on the cotton industry generally that was anticipated. It has inevitably had rather a disturbing effect, and has certainly led to a great reduction in the value of exports from India.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I believe that is correct. The imports from India in 1926–27 were 231 crores, which was a slight excess over the corresponding 1635 figure of 1925–26. The Committee may be interested to learn that the proportion of British imports into India fell from 51 per cent. in the previous year to 48 per cent. in the financial year 1926–27. When I come to the Budget, I think I need not do more than give a very short and cursory survey, because it is now some time since the Budget debate took place in the Assembly, and hon. Gentlemen have had an opportunity of reading the reports. The year 1926–27 closed, as did the three preceding years, with a revenue surplus. The anticipated amount of the surplus for 1926–27 was exceeded by the actual surplus to the extent of no less than 2¾ crores. In four years the aggregate of revenue surpluses in the. Budget of India has been no less than 14 crores which, taking the rupee at 1s. 6d., though that is not entirely an accurate comparison, is £10,500,000. That is a revenue position which Finance Ministers in any part of the Empire might envy. That remark has no reference to any particular Finance Minister.
As regards the Budget proposals for 1927–28 the position is shortly this: On the basis of taxation in 1926–27 next year's Budget looks for a surplus of nearly 3¾ crores, and therefore the way was clear, with the achievement of a sound revenue position, to make further progress in dealing with the important question of Provincial Contributions. The Committee is aware, no doubt, how the position arose about these contributions. When the Government of India Act was passed through this House it was necessary to re-arrange the distribution of revenue between the Central and Provincial Governments, and the principle followed was to make as clean a cut as possible between the sources of income, certain heads of revenue being declared, "Central" and others "Provincial." The effect of that change was to leave the revenue of the Government of India in deficiency, and, to make this good. Provincial Governments were assessed on the recommendation of an expert Committee to contributions of varying amounts. That is what is known as the Meston Settlement. That settlement has been very much criticised in India. I can only say, on behalf of the Secretary of State and the Government of India, that all the authorities concerned 1636 recognised the drawback of the system, which was adopted only as the least objectionable method of meeting the difficulty and achieving the end in view.
When the question came before the Select Committee of this House and another place, they placed on record the view that the Government should direct its financial policy towards extinguishing the Provincial contributions at the earliest possible moment. Successive Secretaries of State and Governments of India had this recommendation of the Select Committee constantly before them, and they always endeavoured through the years to give effect to it. At the time of the presentation of the 1927–28 Budget the contribution of the Provinces to the Central revenue had been reduced by successive steps from 983 to 545 lakhs, excluding the Bengal contribution, which was temporarily suspended for certain reasons some time ago. It was felt that a special effort should be made to get rid of the outstanding balances of the contributions, namely 5½ crores, in their entirety in 1927–28. The Government, therefore, decided to adopt the following expedient—to use the anticipated recurring surplus for the remission of 3½ crores of contributions permanently. These contributions will be wiped out in future. As regards the remainder the situation has been dealt with by transferring the surplus of 1926–27 to a special reserve head, which will be drawn upon to the extent required to enable the balance of the contribution to be remitted this year.
The final Budget provides for equilibrium, after allowing for the non-payment of Provincial contributions in 1927–28, but I should make it clear that the Government cannot, give a guarantee at present that the remission of the residue of the contributions will be permanent. The feasibility of that must depend on the future. Everyone knows that in India, where the monsoon and its activities exercise such an effect upon Government Budgets, it is impossible to do more than say that. It is impossible to give an actual guarantee. However, the Committee will have learned enough from what I have said and from what has been said in India, to realise that the Government have gone a long way towards carrying out the recommendation of the Joint 1637 Select Committee. The other outstanding feature of the financial year in India was the report of the Royal Commission on Indian currency, so ably presided over by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir Hilton Young). I should like to repeat the thanks which have already been conveyed to him by the Secretary of State for India for the work which he did in that connection.
The report was presented last summer and dealt with four main topics, namely, the establishment of a gold standard for India, the creation of a central bank, the fixation of the ratio of the rupee and the arrangements to be adopted in the interim period before the central bank is brought into being. It is not necessary for me to traverse the ground covered by the Commission in their report. The ratio question, which has long been a source of uncertainty and difficulty in Indian finance, has been finally dealt with by the passage of the Bill stabilising the rupee on a 1s. 6d. basis and providing the necessary mechanism for the maintenance of the rate pending the creation of the reserve bank. The Secretary of State has, in agreement with the Government of India, accepted the general scheme of currency reform proposed by the Commission, and Bills have been introduced in the Indian Legislature to give effect to it. The Bills are now before a Select Committee in India, and the House will expect no further comment from me on that part of the report.
I turn from finance to the question of railways, a matter of great interest to all, in this country or in India, who have the welfare of India at heart. The mileage in operation is 38,600 and, of that, 27,500 are owned by the State, of which over 15,000 are operated direct and the remainder through the agency of companies. The programme of new construction covers some 5,000 miles and it is hoped that about 1,000 miles will be opened each year during the next quinquennium. If that anticipation is realised, it will mean a very considerable advance in the progress of railway construction compared with that which took place before the War. Modern methods are being applied in the organisation of the railway workshops, where there has been considerable overhauling in recent years and also in the system of accounting 1638 up-to-date methods of publicity, such as travelling cinemas are being used to bring to general notice the services the railways can render and facilities are being provided for the extension of the training which has been given for some years past to Indians on the technical side of the railway service.
§ Earl WINTERTON
That question does not arise because posts of command are, and have been for many years, open to Indians, but the point is the number of Indians who are being technically trained in administration. You cannot hold a post of command in the railway service unless you have technical training. Facilities for third-class passengers are improving. The carriages are better and more modern, and the fares continue to be—at least the Government of India claim that they are—the lowest of any country in the world. I believe they work out at a fraction under a farthing a mile. Certainly to see the enormous numbers travelling on every railway in India one would say that there is an ever-increasing demand for railway travel there. One other point, before I leave the question of the railways. Although, owing to the development of industry in India the railways obtain in that country much of the material required, there is still, ad I have often pointed out, a promising field for British manufacturers. In the year 1926–27, £7,000,000 worth of railway stores were bought in this country and that in the face of severe foreign competition in certain directions. All these contracts were obtained by tender in competition with Belgian, German and other manufacturers. Those Members who represent industrial constituencies will recognise that this trade is a very large and a very important one. The general position of the Indian railways continues to be sound. The floods of last year had an adverse affect and there was, in consequence, some decline in earnings but the State railways were able to meet their fixed contribution to general revenues without drawing upon reserves to any appreciable extent, although under the Convention which was entered into with the Legislature, this had to be calculated on the results of the previous year which was more prosperous. It is 1639 very satisfactory to be able to state that no constructional projects were delayed owing to the absence of the necessary capital.
I will now say a few sentences about irrigation. I would like to point out to the Committee, especially in answer to those critics who talk as if nothing had been done for agriculture in India, that the total area under irrigation in India is nearly one-eighth of the entire cropped area of the country. I would like, further, to point out that we have under construction in India what I believe to be the largest amount of irrigation work that is being undertaken by any country. The irrigated area, between 1903 and 1922, increased from 10,656,000 acres to 18,762,000 acres and the total estimated cost of the works which have been completed or are under construction since 1922 represents 50 crores of rupees, or —37,500,000, and the area to be irrigated under these schemes is 11,226,000 acres. These works include the Sutlej Valley Project and the Sukkar Barrage to which I have just referred when I said we had the largest irrigation works being undertaken by any country.
Next I come to the important cognate subjects of industrial legislation, welfare, the attitude of India towards the International Labour Organisation and her acceptance of its conventions and recommendations, and I want also to say something on industrial housing and official and unofficial agencies for social service and the improvement of the people. In the first two cases I can speak broadly of India as a whole. In the last two the problem is so diverse and immense that it is only possible to give examples of what has been done in some centres. I should like to emphasise, in the first instance, the difficulties experienced by reformers, whether official or private as a result of the desirability, indeed the absolute necessity, of proceeding gradually and not far ahead of public opinion in introducing the changes necessitated by industrialisation in Oriental, tropical, and sub-tropical countries, where custom and historical, religions, social and economic conditions differ so widely from those of the West and industrial organisation is non-existent or very rudimentary. These difficulties are experienced 1640 to the full in India. Unfriendly critics of the Government are apt to forget what has been done and, concentrating on the black spots that admittedly still exist, are impatient that conditions in India have not yet reached, Western standards. They forget or ignore the difficulties which I have mentioned. I consider that it would be infinitely more helpful and more likely to secure still further improvement if these critics were to commend what has been accomplished and encourage the Indian Government and the Indian Legislature to further efforts.
The International Labour Conference recognises those difficulties and consequently sometimes prescribes a different regime for Eastern countries as compared with Western countries. For example, the Washington Hours of Work Convention of 1919 does not apply at all to China, Persia, and Siam, and provides special regimes for Japan and India, and there are other differences between the treatment which they suggest for Eastern as against Western countries. The improvement in the conditions of labour made by legislation in the last few years in India has been considerable and has certainly synchronised with the prominent part taken by India in the International Labour Organisation, with the work of which she has so whole-heartedly cooperated. I am glad to note the fact that the prominence of India in that organisation was recently signalised by the election of my friend Sir Atul Chatterjee, the High Commissioner for India, as President of this year's Conference at Geneva and the Director of the International Labour Office has, on more than one occasion, acknowledged the support received from India. He has conveyed to the Government of India the gratitude of the Labour Office for the gratitude assistance given ill this work and its appreciation of the manner in which the Government of India are fulfilling their obligations and of the conspicuous example of social and Labour progress which they are thus showing to the world.
I find that India has ratified no fewer than eight of the Conventions adopted at the various Labour Conferences and is one of the few countries that has ratified, the Hours of Work Convention which was adopted at the first Conference at Washington.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Whether it is an example to us or otherwise, it is an answer to those who continue to repeat that we are doing nothing for labour legislation in India, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that the knife cuts both ways. In addition, India has ratified Conventions relating to employment; night work of women and young persons; rights of association of agricultural workers; weekly rest in industry; minimum age for trimmers and stokers; and medical examination of young persons employed at sea. I can only say a word about the output of social legislation in the last five years. She has passed the Factories Act, 1922, which raised the minimum age of employment from nine to 12 years; the Mines Act, 1923, which also raised the minimum age of employment in the mines to 13; the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1924, which, I think, will benefit millions of workers; and the Trade Unions Act, 1926, which came into operation on 1st June this year, and which provides for voluntary registration of unions and grants various privileges to registered unions. The Government, in addition, have in mind and are now working on proposals to put before the Assembly for creating legal machinery for the settlement of trade disputes, which will take the form, first, of investigation and, afterwards, if it is feasible, machinery for the settlement of those disputes.
There are two other matters to which I might refer in that connection, and which the Government are considering. One is the question of providing by legislation for the prompt payment of wages and the second the question of checking abuses that may be found to exist in the system of deducting fines from wages. All these are matters about which hon. Members opposite have been asking questions, and I have had to admit that there have been considerable delays in coming to decisions on occasion, but it must be realised that all sorts of organisations have to be consulted in India before these questions can be settled. I think the record which I have shortly given is rather a remarkable one and I would like to say that I think it reflects credit on the Indian Legislature. Indeed, when we remember the composition of the Council of State and 1642 the Legislative Assembly, and realise that it has a very few representatives of Labour upon it, for a reason which is familiar to all, namely, because it is so difficult to get them, the record is all the more striking. I do not wish anyone to think that we are going to rest on our oars and are satisfied to leave things where they are now. The progress made will, I hope, be continued.
Another matter of great importance to the working people and to progress among the masses generally, but with which I have not time to deal fully, is the question of housing. I want to make it clear, when speaking of this, that it is not a question over which the Secretary of State exercises, generally speaking, any sort of supervision and, therefore, it would be wrong for me to do more than just mention what has been done, without comment and without commendation or criticism. I will confine what I am going to say mainly to the two great cities of Calcutta and Bombay. In both those cities the pressure of population is very great and the problem with which, to use a hackneyed phrase, the City Fathers are confronted is very similar to that which is to be found in the great cities of this country. You have traffic congestion in the streets, difficulty in conveying workers to business during the rush hours, the disposition on the part of workers to crowd to the centre of the city because of the difficulty of getting to their work otherwise, the difficulty of open spaces, of high land values—I am told land values in Calcutta at one time were higher than they were in any town in this country. [Interruption.] The fact remains that these high values exist, and I am here to give a review of the administration in India, not to discuss what I know has been for a quarter of a century a pet subject of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I only state the fact that these high values have resulted in high rents, and the reason is, I think, the great value of land and nothing else.
In Calcutta one great difficulty in dealing with houses—I am informed by a gentleman who is one of the greatest experts on the subject and with whom I had the privilege of talking yesterday, Mr. Bompas—is the fact that Calcutta is built mainly on a swamp, and a great deal of money has had to be spent in draining arena of land, some of which was 1643 already developed, and some of which could not properly be developed without draining. Let me mention some of the things that have been done. The Calcutta Improvement Trust has spent about 25 lakhs of rupees, that is, nearly £200,000, on land, building and roads in connection with three housing schemes for the middle classes, Anglo-Indians, and the poor respectively. The first of these schemes was unsuccessful and resulted in heavy loss, due, I am informed, mainly to the fact that the persons for whom the houses were intended preferred to erect their own houses on sites which are provided by the Trust at a cheap rate. The other schemes, I am informed, were successful and yield a small return. In addition, the Improvement Trust has spent over 13 lakhs of rupees, or about 100,000, on acquiring sites, but at present the demand for them appears to be small. Though they are not used for building purposes, they will be available as open spaces. In addition, the Calcutta Corporation are considering the question of erecting a number of model dwellings, and the Government of Bengal are considering proposals for the financing of co-operative housing schemes.
I turn now to Bombay, where great efforts and great progress have been made to provide adequate housing accommodation for the industrial classes in recent years, and here it should be emphasised that the Back Bay Scheme, the industrial housing scheme, the development under official auspices of a garden suburb of houses of a superior class—or perhaps I should say the projected development, for few, if any, of the sites have been sold—the driving of new roads to act as lungs through the slums, and the provision of open spaces; all these measures are part of a concerted plan to increase the amenities of the City and to improve the health and happiness of its inhabitants. I should like to say that whether this plan, as a whole, has succeeded or failed, no fair-minded person ought to deny that both Lord Lloyd and Sir Leslie Wilson and their Governments have been actuated by an intense desire to carry out great and far-reaching schemes of social betterment, nor ought the enemies or rivals of Bombay to deny her a civic spirit of endeavour comparable with that found in great cities here.
1644 Let me first mention what has been done in Bombay City. The Bombay Development Department has built 207 chawls, containing over 16,500 tenants. There has been an old controversy between one hon. Gentleman opposite and myself, which has gone on now for a year or two, as to whether these chawls are suitable for the purpose for which they are intended. I can only say that I have seen them, and I am fully convinced—although it is not for me to praise or blame in this connection—that they are a very valuable addition to the housing opportunities in Bombay, and I am sure the hon. Member would agree with me if he had seen what I saw in 1922, when Lord Lloyd said to me—and there is no harm in mentioning it, for Lord Lloyd is no longer connected with the Government of India— "I should like to show you something of the slums in the city and what we are doing." It was a wet day, and I must say he took me through the most appalling area I have seen; he also showed me what they were doing on the great open spaces, which I have mentioned before, for the housing schemes. The contrast between the two was really something such as I have never seen anywhere else. I went back to those buildings again later with Sir Leslie Wilson, and the people certainly were happy and healthy in a way which they cannot be in the older parts of the city.
That is not the only piece of work. Roads have been driven through slums, open spaces provided, and I really think the spirit of civic endeavour shown in that city compares favourably with that shown in many great cities in this country. There is still a large number of poor people in Bombay City who live in single rooms. The answer to the criticism there is that it has been the custom from time immemorial, all over India, for people to live in one room, and when further accommodation is provided they do not always use it.
As regards the welfare work of the Presidency, I believe in Bombay City the Labour Office has collected a good deal of information, and I find that out of 76 textile mills in Bombay which furnished information, 28 mills reported that houses had been provided for their workers. Of the textile industry in Ahmadabad 37 mills provide houses for employés. 1645 In Sholapur, all the five mills provide housing, but the accommodation provided is not sufficient to house all the workers who work in these mills. The number of workers who were reported to have taken advantage of this facility amounted to 12 per cent. of the total cotton mill labour force in that city. Concession rents were charged by all the mills. In two cases the rent charged was 25 per cent, of the economic rent, in one case 50 per cent., in one case between 50 and 60 per cent., and in one case 85 per cent. I cannot think that a mill which gives a concession of 15 to 75 per cent, of the economic rent can be regarded as showing a lack of interest in the welfare of the employés.
As regards railways, a number of them provide housing for their employés. The Bombay Port Trust provides housing for its employés. The number of employés reported as living in Port Trust chawls is 4,600. In some cases housing is provided free of rent. As regards private industrial concerns, I have seen returns from employers throughout India, and those, though incomplete, indicate that, excluding some railways and Government concerns generally, no fewer than 348,000 workers are housed by employers. Over 700 employers provide doctors and dispensaries, and about 300 maintain schools for employés or their children. We all know that the death rate of children under a certain age is high in India compared with this country, but not everyone knows that the death rate in those cities has been steadily decreasing, and the critics of the Government and of employers in India usually find it convenient utterly to ignore the other factors which come into the question of the infant death rate besides those of housing and economic conditions, such factors as customs and traditions of the people, the marriage age and the like. Every impartial observer who goes among the people and every doctor who attends them, knows their influence. I have already said that these customs have incurred the condemnation and, indeed, castigation, of prominent Indians in the Assembly and elsewhere. I will leave it at that, for it is really a question for Indians to deal with themselves. It seems to me obvious that in these matters the Government can only advise and reform, where advice and reform are likely 1646 to be accepted by the communities concerned. It would be quite wrong to suppose that in any Eastern country there is the same urge for any authority, Government or local, to act as there is in Westminster. Anyone who believes the contrary is believing something which is utter nonsense. I might refer to what has been done for social service by such institutions as the Social Service League in Bombay, run very largely by Indians. I know most of the people who run it, and very good work has been done by them. I might refer to what has been done by dispensaries for the supply of medicine and things of that kind, but I can only say a great deal is being done.
I turn to an industry which provides the pecuniary means of existence of not less than 71 per cent. of the population of British India, and provides a secondary occupation for multitudes of persons engaged in other pursuits—the industry of agriculture. As I said on the occasion of the last discussion of this Vote, it would be impossible to generalise on Indian agriculture. You might as well try to find a common denomination for the farming systems of Lanark and Southern Italy, as for agriculture in the North and the extreme South of India. I do not propose to discuss, to any extent, the drawbacks of Indian agriculture and the possible remedies until the Royal Commission has reported. I only say that the warning, which I ventured to give on the last occasion, against the natural assumption that the antiquity of agricultural implements is in inverse ratio to their usefulness, has been strikingly confirmed by the agricultural correspondent of the "Times." Referring to my speech, he said that what I said also applied to many parts of this country. I ought to add that when I was speaking of the wooden. ploughs I do not think that I made myself clear. A wooden plough is not entirely composed of wood; it has a steel point. They are beautifully finished and turned by craftsmen from the best wood. While they are a bit old-fashioned, they are also, as far as construction is concerned, very splendidly made implements.
I would like to refer to a matter to which I have not often referred in this House, and that is the question of agricultural co-operation. It appeals very 1647 much to me, because I feel, and I think many in this House feel, that it is really by self-help and material assistance that this form of agricultural activity is doing so much to raise the standard of living, and encourage the legitimate aspirations of millions of cultivators. I doubt whether more than a few Members of the Committee realise the amazing extent of the progress of agricultural co-operation in India. I would ask some hon. Members who are associated with British agriculture to note what has been accomplished in India in the last 20 years. The history of agricultural co-operation in India is only 20 years old. The first co-operative societies' Act in India was passed in 1904. By the middle of 1925 the number of societies had risen to no fewer than 72,000. Their membership exceeds 2,500,000 persons; their working capital comes to nearly 500,000,000 rupees. These are societies carried on by Indians themselves, with the minimum of any sort of assistance from the Government.
Besides the ordinary agricultural societies, there are co-operative societies for special purposes in various provinces, The Punjab has thrift societies, societies for compulsory education, and societies for the supply of agricultural implements and household necessaries. I saw some of them in actual working on the occasion of my last visit. There are also silt clearance societies, cattle breeding societies, and the like. In Bengal there are irrigation societies, milk societies, stores and supply societies, artisans' societies and fishermen's societies. The irrigation and milk societies form a very interesting side of the movement, the former carrying out small local schemes of irrigation. The number of societies rose by nearly 100 during the last year for which figures are available. The milk societies are doing equally valuable work. In Bengal we get also in the agricultural districts anti-malarial -societies. It is the opinion of officials and experts, of, amongst others, perhaps the greatest expert, Sir Ronald Ross, with whom I had the privilege of travelling home from India this year, that they are doing very valuable work indeed in Bengal. He was especially impressed with the work done by Indians themselves in connection with it.
1648 I have not time to speak of the advance, which continues from year to year, which is being made in agricultural research, in education and field work. The Agricultural Department in India maintains three grades of agricultural institutions, each with a definite aim. 'There are the agricultural middle schools, started in recent years, and in some provinces as an experimental measure. They provide a course of agricultural training for the sons of tenants or small landowners who intend to take up farming on leaving school. They are mainly vocational schools, and they have not, as yet, made very much headway, but there is a scheme under trial in the Punjab by which agricultural training is given in ordinary middle schools, and it has met with much success. I saw one of these schools in operation, and was impressed with what was being done. The provincial agricultural colleges have a dual role. They train men for the Agricultural Department, and they provide a course of instruction for students who are desirous of carrying on private farming. There are six of these colleges, four of them being now affiliated to their local universities. The work of the institutes at Pusa and at Bangalore is well known.
I would say of all these things that they are coming under review by the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission may make some recommendations, may condemn in some instances and praise in others: and it is because the Government of India and the Secretary of State have felt that what was being done should be considered by an impartial authority that this Commission was appointed. Someone has said that we are not doing enough for forestry. I can only say the history of scientific forestry in India dates back only to 1860—not a long period in the life of a country such as that. In 1870 the net forestry revenue was 1,500,000 rupees, and in 1924–25 it was 21,500,000 rupees. Great developments are taking place in the work which is being done to produce timber suitable for such purposes as panelling, furniture, bobbins, guncarriages, and things of that sort. Some hon. Members may have seen at Wembley and elsewhere examples of Indian panelling, and I hope there is a growing market for it in this country and in America.
1649 As regards recruitment for the Services, I am able to report that the improvement which I noted last year has been continued. It is moving upwards in a steady curve. Last year, 93 Europeans entered for the Indian Civil Service examination, and this year the number is 112. It is a most satisfactory feature that a number of Europeans have chosen the Indian Civil Service in preference to a career in the Home Civil Service. At one time we were told by people who were pessimistic about the future of the Services in India that the Indian police were not going to get any recruits, but last year there were 66 competitors for a dozen vacancies, and they included some of the best material, both intellectual and athletic, from the best known public schools in this country. This year there are 84 competitors for a similar number of vacancies. As regards the Army, the position there is better than it was when I last had occasion to deal with these estimates. It has been slowly but steadily improving, though we are not yet in the same happy position as we are in the matter of recruitment for the Civil Service, and are not yet getting as many young officers as we require to maintain the establishment of the Indian Army. The whole position is being very carefully watched by the Government of India and the Secretary of State, and the Committee may rest assured that all necessary measures will be taken to ensure that the recruitment of. British officers in sufficient strength will be adequately maintained in the future.
I doubt myself whether the shortage can be attributed to any single cause. Experts differ on this matter, and I do not think there is any simple remedy. It is quite true that some uncertainty exists in the minds of prospective candidates for the Indian Army, due to apprehension as to the effect of the policy of Indianisation. It is quite clear that, those apprehensions will have to be very carefully considered when the Government come to a decision upon the Indian Sandhurst Committee's Report. But there are other causes as well. The recruitment of British officers for the Indian Army was badly hampered by the inevitable break in tradition caused by the Great War. This is a delicate subject, but I think it was to some extent brought about in this way. There were 1650 many families in this country who for generations past had been accustomed to send a son, or a majority of their sons where there was a large family, into the Services, especially the Military, into either the British or Indian Army. During the war there were cases in which two, three, and even four sons of a family—I have known such cases—lost their lives in the war, and parents are inclined to think twice, to use a slang phrase, before encouraging their remaining sons to go into the Service. Then, too, a great many people who would normally have gone into the Services, and of the class who used to go into the Indian Army, have been attracted by civil employment in various businesses in India and elsewhere.
But, however these things may be, in the last year or two recruitment has been steadily improving, even though there are signs that some of the traditional attractions of the Indian Army, such as the system of promotion by time-scale, are not so widely realised as they used to be. One reason why we are now being confronted with a shortage is in one sense accidental. There has been up to now an actual surplus of officers, due partly to the fact that the establishment of officers was not reduced in full proportion to the post-War reduction in the rank and file. This surplus which we had to cover the shortage of direct recruitment during the earlier years after the War has now begun to disappear, and the full effect of the shortage is only now beginning to be felt. The matter is made less serious, however, by the fact that actual recruitment is now improving. I hope that improvement can be maintained and accelerated. My Noble Friend will consider any special measures which the situation may be found to justify, and I do not think we need be uneasy as to the future. So long as we can offer, as we must, adequate guarantees as to the conditions and the prospects of the Service, I am confident that the Indian Army will continue to be regarded as offering one of the finest careers open to a young man whose bent is towards the Army and Army life. In answer to some of the pessimists, I would like to say that I think they fail to realise the improvement in the conditions applying to the Army in India within the last three or 1651 four years. We used to be told in discussing these Estimates that the old attraction of the Indian Army had entirely gone by the board. I will give as an instance on the civil side the case of the son of a very distinguished Indian civil servant. His mother asked him recently what he thought of the Indian Civil Service, and he replied, "I think it is the finest service in the world, and I cannot conceive anybody trying to get into any other service." This young man mentioned the name of the officer he was serving under, and he said, "I am sure Mr. So-and-So is the finest officer we have ever had in India." As long as that spirit exists in India we have no reason to be discouraged.
I have finished my survey and I apologise to the Committee for not being able to keep my remarks within a shorter space. In conclusion I ask myself whether those critics to whom I referred when I started, who assert that after 150 years of the British connection to India the great bulk of the population remains as miserably poor, diseased, ignorant and underfed as ever, are justified in their assertions; or whether, on the contrary, that connection, despite the failings and errors of the administration, has been for the moral and material betterment of the people. I maintain that the unprejudiced and dispassionate survey which I have given, incomplete though it is, leaves no doubt that the position of the people is gradually but steadily improving. I admit that from the material available, it is not easy to form a sound detailed judgment as to the extent of the improvement, but the material viewed as a whole, does show a steady improvement in the economic position. For example, some questions were asked here a month or two ago, the answers to which revealed that the nominal wages in the cotton industry in the Bombay Presidency had increased since May, 1914, by 94 per cent., and those in the City by 87 per cent. This means that, making allowance for the increase in the cost of living, the increase in real wages in Bombay City since 1914 is 21 per cent. Only a week ago I gave some figures in reply to another question which showed that on an average wages in the tea plantations in Assam had 1652 increased by substantially more than 25 per cent. in the last five years for which figures are available.
Let me mention two other cases, which I do not think have been mentioned before. I find that the sum on deposit in Post Office Savings Banks in India has increased in the last eight years from 18¾ crores of rupees to 27¼ crores, which is an increase of nearly 50 per cent.; while the holdings of cash certificates in the same period has increased from 8 to 21 crores. I think those are very remarkable figures, especially in a country in which many of the people refuse to invest their money, and where a great many others prefer to keep what possessions they have got in the form of gold and silver in their huts, and bury them rather than put them into a bank. If the Indians ever really decided to invest to any large extent I am sure the world would be astonished to see the amount of wealth which has been hidden there for years. During 1921, when a wide area was affected by a menacing failure of crops, the proportion of the total population in receipt of relief was well under 3 per cent. throughout the whole area; and even the depressed classes who, in time of shortage had been accustomed to subsist upon seeds and roots, were able to purchase corn when the price was high.
Owing to a long tenure of my present office, I have become personally acquainted with a larger proportion of Indians of all parties in public life than probably any of my predecessors. I can say, I hope, without showing either effusiveness or a patronising spirit, that in culture and in education the leading men among them are not behind the public men of any country. But that alone is not enough. I have shown the extent to which the power to improve the position of the masses rests in their hands, not merely in the future, but at the present time under the existing constitution. In so far as any custom or tradition bars the way, to progress they can do infinitely more than any Government to influence the change. After all, the sympathy and goodwill of this country and of its Parliament must have great value; I believe it will be extended to all who make use of the opportunities to which I have referred in order to 1653 secure the results which political catchwords and phrases, however brilliant, can never achieve by themselves.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I feel certain the Noble Lord will permit me to allow the usual compliments made on these annual statements to be taken as read. I was reminded, while he was speaking, that in the fall of 1770, when the Spanish Cortes met in Madrid, that great Hidalgo, the Duke of Alva y Tormes, long, soberly clad, fluent, from his seat in the Cortes, made his annual statement upon the government of the Spanish Indies. He detailed the great progress that had been made in the Indies; he described the housing problems in Santiago de Cuba, the irrigation experiments on the Rio de la Plata, and the spread of religious education among the Indians of Chaco. At the same time, a bare legged child, called Bolivar, was playing about with a tin sword in the gutters of the City of Caracas. At about the same time, Lord North, or the Duke of Grafton, was rising from the Government Bench here to describe also the state of progress in the plantation colonies of America, the development of education among the Chippeway Indians in South Carolina, and the material improvement in the conditions of the slaves on the estate of a Mr. Washington at Mount Vernon. One must not press the parallel too far. The Cortes never met in 1770, or had met for 200 years, and, though I have no doubt that there is a great resemblance in outward appearance between the Noble Lord and the Duke of Alva, there is a profound difference of race.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am coming to that, I am quite certain that no one in this House has been more disappointed at the Noble Lord's speech than the Noble Lord himself. He knows that progress such as he has been describing to-day was achieved by Spain in the Indies, that it was achieved in Egypt under the Romans; and neither he nor I would be so infernally proud of our own country if we really thought that that sort of progress was all that we stood for in the world. The Noble Lord quoted with approval the saying of Gandhi and Lajpat Rai, and 1654 in his concluding words he paid a well-deserved tribute to the intelligentsia of India. He knows that our best work in India is not the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, but our creation in India of a people who have now free thought, the capacity to use their brains, the determination to trust themselves, and, above all, the fact that we have instilled into them the great cult of freedom. A good many years ago Gokhale said that that was what we have given to India; but of freedom in the Noble Lord's speech we have not one word. Of comfort, yes—the standard of comfort is rising throughout the world, but, apparently, from the Noble Lord's own statement, it has risen far faster in India since the reforms were introduced than before; and I may ma add that the presence of the Labour party in this House has had a very admirable effect upon the activities of the Indian Government in the direction of Labour legislation.
But that is not enough. The Noble Lord knows as well as any of us that the whole of India to-day—and when I speak of the whole of India I moan the thinking people of India; unfortunately, in all countries of the world, too many people are engaged in the struggle for the conquest of bread to have any ideas much outside that—the whole of thinking India is waiting as one man for the declaration of the Government of India on one point. They want to know whether the Statutory Commission is to be appointed; what that Statutory Commission is to be like; whether it is to be something from which hope can come, or whether it is to preserve things and relations as they are. They are waiting for that, and the people in England are waiting for that, in order to see whether they can complete in India a bigger job than the Sukkar Barrage—the creation of a free people.
The party with which I have the honour to be connected has laid down its principles clearly and firmly. At the conference at Liverpool they were stated as follow:This Conference recognises the right of the Indian people to both self-government and self-determination. It welcomes the declaration of the Indian leaders in favour of free and equal partnership with the other members of the Commonwealth of Nations. It expresses the view that the policy of the British Government should be one of co-operation with the Indian people 1655 with this object. It is the expressed conviction of the Labour Party that the political situation in India makes it imperative that immediate steps should be taken to place the Indian Constitution on a permanent basis.That is the resolution which was passed only two years ago. To that resolution not only the Labour party have adhered, but, I believe, the majority in this House and the majority in the country. It is by no means a party resolution; it is what all politically-minded people in this country are pledged to.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
Are we to understand that that is a resolution in favour of immediate Dominion self-government?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
No. It says that the policy should be one of co-operation with the Indian people with the object of securing an equal partnership.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That is what all thinking people in this country are in favour of. We all want Dominion Home Rule, and we all want a step taken towards it for which everyone is waiting. I need hardly say that the Indian Assembly is thinking of nothing else but this. We cannot get them interested in education or irrigation while they are struggling for political freedom. That is the difficulty. It was exactly the same in Ireland. No people struggling for freedom can think of other things. The resolution they passed in the Assembly in May, 1925, was not in favour of a Statutory Commission, but in, favour of a round-table conference. I do not think there is much difference in our minds between a Statutory Commission and a round-table conference. The Minority Report of the Muddiman Commission expressed admirably, I think, the views of all thinking politicals in this country. It said:The Constitution should now be put on a permanent basis, with provision for future automatic progress so as to secure stability in the Government and the willing cooperation of the people.Those were not the words of extreme Indian nationalists, but of moderates who went on to the Commission and signed that Report. We do no want Home Rule 1656 to-morrow, but we want a settlement tomorrow which shall tell us the date when Home Rule shall come. It is not a question of immediate self-government, but of an immediate step forward to provincial government, and the prospect of a definite date when the Indians can take the place occupied by other free peoples, and manage themselves in military matters as well as in civilian matters. I will bother the Committee with one more quotation from Pandit Motilal Nehru, because it is very vital and expresses exactly the view of the Swaraj party:We want responsible government in the Central Legislature. We want the Executive to be responsible to the Legislature except in certain particulars, namely, the expenditure on military services up to a fixed limit, the expenditure classed as political and foreign, and the payment of debts and liabilities. Then in the provincial governments we ask for provincial autonomy: we want the abolition of Diarchy.The next step, he goes on to say, is the appointment either of a round table conference or of a statutory commission adequately representative of European, Indian and Anglo-Indian interests. Now we too want to see this next step. Till you do appoint that Commission everyone in India will stand and wait. No genuine progress can possibly take place, anxiety will deepen, doubts as to our good faith, already prevalent, will increase and the possibility of an honourable and amicable settlement will be jeopardised.
I know it is said that things are quiet in India. They are getting along so sweetly now. Why worry? Why not wait to appoint this Statutory Commission? Wait till next year or the year after. 1929, after all, is the date in the Bill. Things are all right now. Why fish in troubled waters? It is because things are quiet now that I would beg the Government to appoint this Commission at once. There is nothing more contemptible to my mind than to refuse in peaceful times and surrender later to force. There are plenty of pages in our history of which no one in this country is likely to be proud. The surrender to Ireland, even now the situation in China—how helpless we are! We refused in peace what we should be only too glad to surrender now to safeguard our financial interests in China. I would particularly urge the Noble Lord, who I know perfectly well 1657 shares the views I have propounded, to impress upon his Chief that while the House of Lords can wait, the house of India cannot, that any delay in this matter will certainly involve the Commission being set up at a time when we are not so likely to get that co-operation upon which the success of the Commission must inevitably depend. It is a question of an honourable settlement or a dishonourable concession later. The House knows perfectly well what stands in the way. We have to consider, we must consider—the Indians admit it just as much as I do—the interests of the British Civil Service in India. We have got to consider the financial interests which have arisen from the investment of British capital in India. We have got to consider the use of the guiding hand through the period of transition. Both the civilian and the military guiding hand is bound to continue between the next step and the final freedom. But if we start making our arrangements now, with Indians who can deliver the goods, we can get adequate safeguards and security, legislative and in other ways. A friendly settlement enables one to make far better terms and to take far fewer risks than a settlement that is extracted by force or anarchy.
I know it will be said that we are taking risks in taking any 'new step forward in India. Everyone in this country seems to be full of risks. The risk of allowing a pretty girl to ride on the bracket of a motor cycle worries some Members of the House. The risk of allowing morally deficient girls to wander about the streets worries others. We are always being worried by these risks. England would not be where she is if our forefathers had not taken risks. I am not at all certain that the risks of freeing India are not a good deal less serious than the risk of losing Indian friendship, and suffering in India what we are at present suffering from in China. Hon. Members, who are mostly the product of our public schools, will know that the only part in public school education in England which is of the slightest value to anyone is after you get into the sixth form and become a prefect. Of course there is great risk in trusting to the elder boys to look after the discipline of the school, in giving authority to a lad of 16 or 17. It is a very risky business, but 1658 it is the making of that boy and the schools risk it and do not suffer. To give posts of command is to create power to command. When I hear all these sneers about the inability of these Eastern people to make up their minds and to take up executive posts, I know perfectly well that you or I would be just as incapable if we had not had at an early age the chance of taking up these executive posts, making up our own minds and directing other people. It is part of the political education that we are bound to give throughout the adolescent British Commonwealth if we want the new British Commonwealth to be up to standard. We are giving such education to India. We are beginning, and it is risky, everyone admits. But if you cannot take any risk you might as well shut up your Empire business. Even this short period of reforms has done something to produce just the spirit of acting for yourself and acting on your own—self reliance—which we want, which lion. Members opposite are so anxious about.
There has been no more remarkable ease lately than the mission of Srinivasa Sastri and others to South Africa and the wonderful way in which that man by his personality managed to convert South Africa to accept the settlement they made. Srinivasa Sastri has shown his light before all men so that we can say that there are others in India capable of doing the same. Give them the chance just as you give public schoolboys in the sixth form the chance of responsibility and they will take responsibility and authority. I say delay involves far greater risks, that delay would he foolhardy in view of what has happened in Ireland, what has happened in China, and what may happen to-morrow in Persia. Other Asiatic races greatly inferior in intelligence and character to the Indians are developing an independent spirit, and in the case of Japan manifestly making good. To assume that this people whom we have imbued with British ideals of good Government will continue indefinitely to submit to British authority as if they were junior form schoolboys is ridiculous. We want a Commission set up, a commission composed of men with courage and who have the confidence of men. It is better to have no Statutory 1659 Commission at all than a Commission which is not representative, even though there may be some that men might call dangerous. I would like to see such a man as Ghandi on that Commission. I think I know India better than the right hon. Gentleman does.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I did not suggest I knew India better than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I must point out to him that he is not accepted as an authority either upon India or the Indians.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am sorry if I attributed to the Noble Lord any remark that he did not make, but I should say from my small acquaintance with the Indian people that they are very well capable of taking the responsibility of considering and reporting on the future government of their own country. I should say there were men with sufficient capacity, sufficient confidence to take serious resolves, and to deliver the goods. We have all listened to extremists speaking at street corners, but, even when you get the Labour men round a table, they often come to terms, and it is of greater importance to confer with these men in India and come to a settlement with them than to set up a Statutory Commission which they will not accept or trust.
There is a wide enough field before any Commission. There is the question of the franchise; the question possibly of redistributing some of the provinces on religious rather than racial lines. With regard to the question of the extension of the franchise, hon. Members do not really appreciate to-day what the franchise in India means. In India you have constituencies as large as the whole of England with a population from 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 souls and with anything from 5,000 to 20,000 voters. Constituencies for the Legislative Council are not so large as that, but at the same time they are enormous areas as we judge constituencies in this country. There are very narrow electorates, class 1660 electorates, caste electorates. There is the question of increasing the number of seats and thereby getting that personal touch between the voter and the representative which is so necessary for the political education of the voters throughout India. And, above all, there is the question of fixing a date, far ahead it may be, when we can say to the Indian people, "Meet together and draw up your own Constitution, and we shall hand over for good or ill the Government of your country." That is the ultimate solution of all those problems which the people of India are facing to-day.
They will be delighted and interested to hear the report of the material progress which their country has made and is making, but freedom after all is greater than material progress. No people would sacrifice its freedom for material wealth. Therefore, I would beg the Noble Lord to continue to develop India along the lines of material progress, but to harness with that the progress in political independence which has been going on steadily for the last ten years and which is essential for the completion of the work we are doing—establishing a free commonwealth of peoples. I am glad, in spite of the Noble Lord's sneers, that I was it at the birth of this new free people, and I hope I shall be there when it attains maturity and stands alone. A fellow countryman of mine, Sir Charles Wolseley of Wolesley, elected to this House, but sent to prise instead—mad, as I am mad no doubt, or my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley)—speaking in Stafford Market Place to celebrate at last the carrying of the great Reform Bill, said:Reform is now in the hands of the people. They can nor save of ruin themselves.When we hand over to India an Act conferring on them that power to save or ruin themselves, then I and Members of this honourable House will have done our duty.
§ Sir FRANK NELSON
The right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat prefaced his remarks by asking the Noble Lord opposite to take as read the usual compliments extended to the Minister on the introduction of his Estimates. I do not desire the Noble Lord 1661 to take my compliments as read. I desire most humbly to offer him my most sincere congratulations on a very trying and difficult speech, and upon having at the same time achieved a task which is by no means easy, namely, to clothe the dry bones of the long statement which it was his duty to make with flesh and blood interest which held the attention of a great number of members of the Committee whose interests in India after all is, with great respect, purely academic. What is one to say, however, of the contribution of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) who has just sat down? I am divided between my great personal regard for him and my sense of grave disappointment that at a time like the present, he should not have thought it necessary to make a far more weighty and considered contribution to this Debate, a thing which we all know he is conspicuously able to do if he so desires. I always rise to speak about India whether in this House or outside with a great sense of personal insufficiency. After long residence in the East, I learnt perhaps only one thing, namely, that after 21 years in India and the East one realises how little one knows at the end of that time of all the various problems that confront India.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme touched on more than one occasion in his speech on the future appointment of the Statutory Commission. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows perfectly well that the problem which is going to confront that Commission is one bound up almost entirely in the mentality of 320,000,000 people. The Commission's duty will be to decide whether the degree of self-government at present conferred upon India is to be extended, modified, or restricted. That is the problem in a nutshell, and that problem I submit is bound up entirely, however one may look at it, in the complex mentality of this great people. I can give instances both grave and gay of this mentality. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has, as I know, a friendship with one of our former great pro-consuls, whose friendship I also enjoy. This great administrator to whom I allude told me of a story that he claimed happened 1662 to him, and which all of us who lived in India know, illustrates the extraordinary aspect of Indian mentality He told me of how one morning he was walking before breakfast in one of the great towns of his Dependency and came upon five Post Office servants with the paraphanalia of their office piled up in a heap seated at the side of the road playing cards. He addressed them in careful and correct Hindustani, and abjured them to realise that as servants of the Sirkar the worst possible crime that a postman could commit was to indulge in any recreation whatever until all his letters had been delivered; then there arose from this body of five an ancient patriarch with a white beard, who, in tones in which injured innocence struggled with respect, replied, "Sir, we are not postmen! we are not postmen! we are telegraph peons." That will give an idea of the gayer side of their mentality.
Let me touch, if I may, on the far greater and far deeper problem to which the Noble Lord has already alluded in this connection. There are, I believe, I do not know what the latest census puts it at, but I should imagine that the population of India to-day, including all the native States, numbers some 320,000,000. Out of those at least two-thirds embrace one of the great religions of India—the Hindu religion. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme has, I believe, himself said in this House that the East is no longer or should no longer be characterised as the unchanging East, but that it is changing very quickly nowadays. I can only accept that with qualified approval, because there are certain problems and aspects of Indian life which are just as much unchanged to-day as they were two or three generations ago. [Interruption.] But what I am alluding to are those age-long religions, age-long customs, age-long prejudices, age-long traditions. All these are inseparably bound up with any problem which has to be settled when you are deciding whether a degree of self-government is to be extended, modified, or restricted.
§ Sir F. NELSON
On the contrary, I say there is now a great deal more free-thinking in India, but I am alluding to problems which are going to confront any commission which is going to decide how the future government of India is to be conducted. After all, are we not faced with this problem in the East—and here I allude more directly to what the noble Lord touched upon more than once in his speech. Here you have a mass of people, a great number of the families of whom have been founded by means of child marriages, sometimes the girl-wife is nine or ten or eleven years old, and the boy husband probably not more than 13 or 14. For generations this people has been founded to a large extent by marriages started on that basis. Hon. Gentlemen above the gangway may say, "What have the British Government done in order peacefully to persuade any change in this very delicate subject to which I am alluding?" By means of education, social legislation, and by means of pressing eugenics and hygienics, we have done everything in our power to point out to these great masses the possible danger to the future well-being of the people by a continuance of these customs. But it must be remembered that direct legislation would cut at the very root of a religion embraced by two-thirds of our fellow Indian subjects. After all, we are bound to recognise that the whole vitality, the whole intelligence the whole intellectuality of the people must be bound up in this custom which their religion permits and recommends and until the free thinkers, whom I gladly admit are increasing, take hold of this problem to a much greater and in a more definite manner than they have so far done, the problem will always remain as to how you are going to confer either an extension or even full and free Dominion Government on a nation whose vitality, whose moral ad material progress must inevitably suffer and whose intellectuality must inevitably suffer so long as this great religious custom and tradition remains as it is.
There has been much discussion in India and also in this country as to the personnel of the Statutory Commission which is, sooner or later, to be sent out. I have heard a great number of suggestions. I have heard it said that the members who are eventually 1664 appointed should have no preconceived notions of India, that they should not be, possibly, retired administrators or retired pro-Consuls. I do not attach any importance whatever to that suggestion. You can have preconceived notions of India when you have never been to India or, at most, only on a fleeting cold weather visit. What is really wanted is not whether the record of the public-spirited men who will eventually accept service on the Commission have been in India or not; what we want is the man himself, a man with time at his disposal and who is willing to make a sacrifice, and it will be a great sacrifice of time and possibly health, perhaps a sacrifice of peace of mind—for whether extension, modification or restriction of the present degree of self-government is recommended, there will always be a large and vocal body of opinion combating such a verdict.
I feel absolutely convinced that the great problem in front of this Statutory Commission,—here I join with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme in believing that it will be the great problem of the future of India—is the personnel of the Commission. I can only enjoin upon hon. Members above the gangway in discussing the Statutory Commission, never to forget that the atmosphere which will be found in India when that Statutory Commission begins its work will be one very largely composed of the results of speeches made by Members of this House who think differently from me on this subject. The right hon and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme can play a great part in this respect. I have great personal regard for him, and I know that his words are read all over India. I have read them in the vernacular newspapers in India, and they are read with very great respect and great interest by the Indian people. What a chance he has missed to-day, and one which I am sure he will regret in the future, in that he has not endeavoured by means of a long well-thought-out discourse, of which he is so capable on this subject, to help on that atmosphere, so that the Commission, which we both agree has an enormous task before it, might have entered upon their duties possibly under better conditions.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
Two years ago the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State, likened himself to a Derby dog having its annual run. To-day, he reminded me rather of a racing greyhound, not only for the great amount of ground which he covered in a very short space of time but for the remarkable skill with which he topped the different hurdles in his course, but, l0069ke the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), I noticed particularly that one important hurdle, the Statutory Commission, was not on the course, and I think the Committee will regret very much that nothing was said in regard to it.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I am sorry that I was not present then. The matter is one of such vital importance at the present time that I have risen solely to say a few words in regard to it. We are aware that the Government of India Act has certain great defects. I will not refer to it at any length, but will content myself by saying that any Act which has a division of responsibility in it, such as that Act has, must be subject before very long to very grave review. That Act started with a bad atmosphere. The post-War atmosphere was exceedingly bad for a Reform Act. The state of unrest in which the whole world was put and the new ideas that were fermenting, were naturally bad for the working of the reforms.
I agree with the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme that what has overshadowed the working of that Act more than anything else is the shadow of 1929, and the Statutory Commission. So long as the minds of the people are concentrated on that one idea of self-government, it is impossible to get them to devote the amount of attention that we would like them to devote to other matters. I would remind the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme that the resolution of the Liverpool Conference of the Labour party which he quoted hardly differs one jot from the preamble of the 1666 Government of India Act. The object of the Act is there stated as being:The progressive realisation of responsible Government in British India as an integral part of the British Empire.Those, in other words, seem to state what was stated by the Conference at Liverpool. It cannot be too often repeated, in order that the constant repetition may make it better known in India, that the people of this country and the Members of this Parliament are determined to see that Act implemented. We have to assure the Indian people by every manner of means we can, that the British people, the British House of Commons, with whom the great responsibility lies, and the British Government are determined, as far as in them lies, to implement the promise contained in the Government of India Act of eight years ago. In that Act, the Statutory Commission was fixed to be held in 1929. There is no reason why the Commission could not have been held earlier. The year 1929 was ten years from the passing of the Act, and we are now in the year 1927. The Terms of Reference which are stated in the Act for the guidance of the Commission are of the very widest—whether it should be extended, modified or restricted. Some of us, many of us, think that the architecture for the building of the reforms might be very profitably modified in various directions. Some of us think that the style of architecture chosen is not suitable to Indian ideals and that bricks made in London are not perhaps the most suitable for building a magnificent edifice in India. However that may be, the Terms of Reference are of the very widest.
The reason I am stressing this point is that the whole future of India and the whole future of our relations with India depend upon the Commission. The personnel of that Commission is of vital importance to us in this country, to India and the whole Empire. In this connection, may I make a suggestion to the Noble Lord? The importance of the selection of the Commission is vital. We have seen in past years the very great advantage which different parts of the Empire have gained by the interchange of opinion through the Parliamentary delegations that have gone to different parts of the Empire. Would it not be possible for an important and carefully- 1667 chosen delegation to go from this country to India, say, in the next cold weather, to discuss questions and create a different atmosphere from that which exists to-day? If we can create a different atmosphere by the time the Statutory Commission is appointed it may mean all the difference between success and failure. I have risen for the sole reason of throwing out that idea for consideration, and I hope it will receive some attention not only from the Noble Lord himself but, as this is a matter for the House of Commons, that the House of Commons will consider whether it might not be of great advantage to us when we come to appoint the Statutory Commission in 1929.
Sir HILTON YOUNG
Let me join in the general expression of appreciation for the admirable and interesting survey which we have heard from the Noble Lord. We have learnt to look forward to the occasion of an Indian Debate as one on which we have an opportunity to hear from him all that he can so interestingly tell us. Let me next refer to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). He argued for an acceleration of self-government in India and, in particular, for an acceleration in the appointment of a Royal Commission. Amongst many brilliant and mixed metaphors he compared the future self-government of India with the appointment of a prefect, and he told us that the appointment of a prefect was a factor in the development of the character of the lad. What he did not tell us was that while the premature appointment of a prefect would materially improve and no doubt develop the character of the lad, that it had other effects. It may be extremely good for the lad himself, but bad for the house; it may be very bad for the little boys in the house. I do not mean to say that the case is that of India, but I think his metaphor is double edged. It appeared to me that he based his argument for this acceleration of self-government in India on a most profound misapprehension of the present course of events in the Indian Empire. According to him, matters will never improve in India while the constant preoccupation with the idea of suppressed nationality endures. Let me 1668 venture to give in few words what appears to me to be a truer state of the case, as derived from personal knowledge. I admit, my knowledge is inadequate and slight, nevertheless it is better than none.
About six years ago I visited India on work which brought me into contact with all sorts and conditions of our Indian fellow subjects. Last year I repeated that most enthrallingly interesting experience. I have, therefore, the advantage of being able to make a comparison of the conditions at an interval of five years. I should say that during that interval there had been the most enormous improvement in the relations between British and Indian subjects, and that this circumstance was not only evident at the top. It was not only amongst the leaders of Indian thought and the leaders of the British that the relations are much more friendly and co-operative—it was not only there, at the top—but what I lay stress upon is this, that as between the officers of the countryside and the humble Indian people the relations have also improved. Six years ago you heard upon all hands that the relations were most dangerously strained, that they were positively hostile; and a year ago you heard on all hands the happier tale "We are back to the old state of affairs, we are all friends again in the countryside." That is one great change.
There is another great change which struck me as most remarkable and which directly disproves the contentions of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He said that India is preoccupied with the fever of suppressed nationality; those may not be his exact words, but that is the impression I derived from his observations. What struck me so forcibly was the remarkable alleviation which was in progress in that feeling. The subtle, strenuous, and never resting intelligence of the Indian people was rapidly growing completely discontented with the merely negative attitude of the extreme nationalist politician; it was now turning with increased interest and attention to the practical and constructive work of life. This was not only in politics. It struck me less in politics than in the economic and industrial life of the country. What seemed a most encouraging feature of this was the growing attention that was being paid by 1669 the young intelligent Indian to a practical career. Typical of this new phase of Indian life appeared to me to be the great institution which I had the benefit of seeing, the Hindu College at Benares. There, the most prosperous institution was the engineering school. How different from the conventional idea of Indian interests, that the technical training in the engineering school should be the most active school in the college!
Let me go further, if I may, and widen the sweep a little. One could not but think that it was possible to detect the constant growth in the minds of our thoughtful Indian fellow subjects of a conviction of the essential necessity to each other of the Indian Empire and the other members of the family of nations, which is the British Empire; a profound conviction growing upon their part that India was substantially necessary to the Empire; a new ideal of a united Empire as an economic self-contained unit, producing its own raw material and providing itself with its own markets for consumption. Indians can now conceive the Indian Empire as a most essential member of that family, and they are beginning to understand that, if they are to look with confidence to the future, the Indian Empire must realise its destiny as a unit in the economic structure of the British Empire. As a corollary of that, one notices the growth of the sense of conviction on the part of our Indian fellow subjects that the British Empire is necessary to India. The most conspicuous fact, of course, about that peninsular continent is the vast diversity of religions, races and communities, based upon various distinctions, and particularly the enormous complexity of language. To put the matter briefly in a sentence, it seems to us that, just as India is coming to realise that the English language is a necessary cement to bind and hold together the complexity of India, as expressed in the complexity of its speech, so the services of the British Official are necessary to hold together that great complex community, owing to the vast variation of customs, ideals, habits and manners, in various parts of the continent.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman bases his conclusion for an acceleration with respect to the Commission upon the assumption that things are going from 1670 bad to worse. I have no opinion to express as to what the rate of acceleration as regards Indian self-government or as regards the Commission should be. I would only say that the conclusion upon which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman bases his arguments is unsound, that the true state of the case is continuous amelioration of conditions, and that a decision as to the rate at which to proceed with self-government, and as to the date of the appointment of the Commission, should be made on the assumption that things are continuously improving and not that they are getting worse. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman put up, in order to knock down, the argument that things should be left alone because they are stagnation. I believe that that is an equally inaccurate description of the state of affairs. There is not a stagnancy; there is a constant approximation of the two elements together in the spirit of cooperation, and a constant growth of the conviction upon both parts of the necessity of the one to the other.
Before I conclude, let me turn aside to take a few brief steps into the dreary wilderness of finance. The Noble Lord, in his most interesting account of affairs, referred to the cessation of the Provincial contributions. I was responsible, with Lord Meston, for the Meston settlement, under his great knowledge and experience. Let me, therefore, take this occasion to utter a word of the most sincere congratulation upon the cessation of those contributions. They were a necessary evil, but they were undoubtedly an evil. I refer to that topic only in order to have the opportunity of saying in this House a word which may perhaps be said with justice and advantage, and that is a word of congratulation upon the brilliant financial administration which has made it possible to get rid of this very grave disadvantage in Indian finance—the brilliant financial administration of Sir Basil Blackett under the two Viceroys, the Marquess of Reading and Lord Irwin. No greater and more rapid change has ever been produced upon the financial scene than has been produced upon the financial scene of India during his term of administration, and no change in the history of financial administration has been more definitely due to the brilliant inspiration of a master of his subject, 1671 backed and supported and maintained throughout by the most able co-operation of one of the most accomplished Civil Services in the world.
As regards the Currency Bill, to which the Noble Lord referred, this is also an occasion for congratulation of the Government and of the people of India upon having cleared out of the way one of the most vexed and vexing subjects of financial controversy, the ratio of the rupee. There remain still two very substantial advances to be made. I will not say more than a few sentences upon the work that still remains to be done as regards the reform of the Indian scheme of finance and currency. All that I can do with propriety on this occasion is to express the profound conviction that in the establishment of a reserve bank upon the principle proposed by the recent Royal Commission, there awaits for the people of India an enormous boom in the concentration of banking and currency reserve and in the transfer of the control of currency to the hands of business and financial experts. The work has been done with great devotion by the Indian Government, but that control of currency is not a proper function for Governments. It has led to infinite political friction in the past, and it will be a bright day for the people of India when the causes of that friction at last are removed, when the control in this matter, so vital to the life of India, is put into the hands of a purely Indian institution operating upon the spot. In the past, control of Indian currency has necessarily been divided between the Government of India and the India Office. That in itself was an evil, that control was necessarily exercised at some distance, that is, from London, as regards some particulars. All these evils will be removed by the establishment of a reserve bank in India.
Secondly, as regards the standard of the currency, all that can be said with propriety by me is a word of profound conviction as to the enormous benefits that await the Indian people in the basing, for the first time in history, of the rupee currency upon a standard of solid gold. What is most needed—and this is so well known to everyone who has studied economic conditions in India 1672 —what is most needed for the prosperity of the Indian people is confidence enough to serve as the foundation for the growth of the habit of investment and of banking. The chief, and indeed, at the present, the only obstacle in the path of an enormous development of the economic prosperity of the peninsula Continent, is distrust of all sorts of value except the precious metals. That distrust can be rooted out and confidence can grow only upon a firm relation of the rupee unit to gold. Upon those advances in the currency system of the country depends, in the opinion not only of technicians but of all interested in the subject, the brightest hope of the material prosperity of the Indian people in future.
I say this single word, in conclusion, upon that subject, that it has to be remembered that under present conditions it is impossible to reconcile the scheme of the Royal Commission with coining gold for circulation. One may utter a word of caution and of warning; it is a word of most earnest caution to those concerned in educating public opinion in India, not to grasp at the mere shadow of a gold currency in circulation and to lose the substance of that stable gold standard which should serve as the foundation of the house of prosperity for the India of the future.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman into a discussion of the finance of India. If I were to do so I should find myself at some variance with the policy of deflation in India, of which he was a prominent advocate.
Sir HILTON YOUNG
I must ask the hon. Member to give some authority for the assertion that I am in favour of a policy of deflation in India. To anybody who is acquainted with my labours, I submit the assertion is simply fantastic.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
The right hon. Gentleman says it is fantastic to assume that he was in favour of deflation. The right hon. Gentleman's policy was the restoration of the rupee to 1s. 6d. and that is deflation. If the right hon. Gentleman does not call it deflation, I do not know what deflation is.
Sir HILTON YOUNG
It is, of course, impossible to argue so technical a subject in this way, but acquaintance with the report of the Royal Commission would have shown the hon. Member that the whole argument of the Royal Commission was that there was no deflation in stabilisation at 1s. 6d.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I do not think it is a subject which we can discuss in this way. Personally, I regard the policy of carrying the rupee up to 1s. 6d. as deflation. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to differ from me on that point. If he does not like the word I have used, I will simply say I should find myself at variance with his policy with regard to the value of the rupee, which, in my opinion, was responsible for a very great deal of the difficulty through which India has been passing. However, as I have said, I do not rise to follow the right hon. Gentleman into a financial discussion. My object is to deal with the larger issue raised by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I listened to the earlier part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Norwich (Sir Hilton Young), and I cannot quite understand his attitude with regard to the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Under-Secretary interrupted the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) to point out that he had not dealt here to-day with the question of the Statutory Commission, because he had already referred to it when this subject was before the Committee three weeks ago. I cannot charge my memory with the exact words of the Noble Lord on that occasion, but I think they were to the effect that the time was rapidly approaching when he would be able to make some statement on the subject of the Statutory Commission.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I did not say anything of the sort. What the hon. Gentleman says I said bears no resemblance to what I said.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I am speaking from memory, and therefore I am quite in the hands of the Noble Lord. He certainly did say that the Statutory Commission was drawing very much nearer.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
By the efflux of time certainly, but it was drawing nearer, and some of us gathered from that statement—quite erroneously no doubt—that there were hopes of hearing something more about it on the present occasion. In those hopes we have been disappointed. Though we listened with the greatest interest to the facts and figures of the general statement which the Noble Lord gave us, and though we differ with some of his conclusions—not all of them—with regard to those facts and figures, yet we consider that this larger issue of the Statutory Commission and all it involves is the real issue which interests the people of this country and the people of India to-day. It is only natural that it should be so, because in that question is involved the whole momentous issue of the future of India. India, viewed from the standpoint of population, is the most important part of the British Empire, and with the future of India, in my opinion, is bound up not merely the destiny of that country, but of the British Empire. It is not only those who sit on these Benches who are concerned with and committed to self-government for this great part of our Empire. That is part of a policy which has been definitely set forward by the Government of this country and in all parts of the House of Commons. All parties are committed to a change in that direction.
A great feature of the British people is their love of liberty and self-government. There was a time when the people of this country thought that the sole repository of government rested within these islands and, as a result, we had the war with the Colonies in America, and we lost what is now the United States in consequence. That war made the very important precedent that so far as people of our own kith and kin were concerned when they wanted self-government it could not be denied to them. Then we had the case of Ireland. I do not think I should be quite right in describing the people of Ireland as of our own kith and kin. They are people of a different race from the English and the Scottish but, even there, we did not withhold self-government to the point of causing civil war. We withheld it longer than was desirable, but we stopped 1675 short of civil war and, rather than go through civil war, we accepted the self-government of the Irish people.
Now the question which we have to face in regard to India is this. Are we willing to concede, and can we successfully set up a system of self-government in a part of the British Empire which is inhabited by races, differing in colour, religion, habits and qualites from ourselves, and from one another? Hon. Members opposite and probably the Noble Lord himself will say that that is a problem of supreme difficulty and some of them imagine that we on this side do not recognise its difficulty. Personally, I fully recognise the supreme difficulty of doing anything of that kind, but it is a difficulty which has to be stood up to and squarely faced because on its solution depends not merely the position and the health of India but the stability and the wholesomeness of the whole British Empire. If we succeed, we shall have put to our credit an achievement unique in history, because, never before in the world, has one country conceded to another country of the size of India self-government for its own affairs. If, either through lack of psychological imagination or of administrative capacity, we botch the business, no excuse will serve us. If in place of creating healthy self-government in India, we produce in that part of the British Empire a festering sore, it will infect the British Empire and make it very doubtful whether that Empire can exist, except utterly weakened and enervated in the future.
Personally, I am not afraid of the administrative capacity of the people or the government of this country. I believe that the thing which has marked the people of this country all through recent history is their amazing genius for administration. The British people, to a greater extent than any other people in the world, are able to see the wood—they are not prevented from seeing the wood by having their attention concentrated on the trees. I am not quite so sure about our psychological imagination, and the question which we have to face to-day is whether we can rise above our qualities and build a structure which will really last. What are the main difficulties that we have to face? In the first place, we are confronted with a people widely different from ourselves, with regard to 1676 whom it is not easy for us to stretch our imagination so as to understand the roots of action. Many qualities on which we in this country pride ourselves are not possessed in the same degree by the Indian people. They do not consist of a single race, but are a continent of races. India is not unilingual, nor bilingual, but polyglot. They are people who have had little or no experience of self-government. In their own rule, in times past, they have been largely governed autocratically from above. Many of the people of India have had little experience of self-defence, and great masses of the people of the country to-day are hopelessly ignorant and in destitution and poverty.
It is no part of my present purpose to follow the Noble Lord into the question of how far the rule which we have established in India is responsible for some of these things, such as poverty and ignorance. Those who are opposed to British rule attribute to our Government responsibility for a great many of these things, but that is not a matter upon which I wish to enter at the moment. I am not now concerned with what happened in the past; I am thinking, and I am quite sure the Government of India are thinking, of the future, and of trying to build up, not by mutual recrimination, but by mutual co-operation, a future which will stand the test of time. Therefore, we have to admit these difficulties, and we have to admit the more immediate practical difficulties which confront us when we are thinking of the conferring of complete Dominion Home Rule upon the people of India.
There is the vital and important question of the Army, of how far it is possible to construct, from the Indian people themselves, an Army, and to a lesser extent a Navy, which will really enable them to take a part in governing themselves, which it will be quite impossible to do while they are dependent on the British Army to secure them from foreign aggression or from internal disorder. Then there is the very grave question of the administration of the Indian States. The relationship of the parts of the British Empire in India to the Indian States is one which will need most careful adjustment before complete self-government can be conferred upon British India. Finally, there is the question of 1677 the Civil Service and how far, under any change of system, the present British members of the Civil Service will be able to continue in their work. All those are matters of very great difficulty, and I, no less than hon. Members opposite, realise that those are only some of the immense difficulties that confront us when we attempt to solve this problem. But I want to say that, in our opinion, the dangers of not proceeding are very much greater than the dangers of proceeding.
The right hon. Member for Norwich seemed to imagine that we, on this side, wanted to rush things and come to a premature and unnecessary decision. What we do want to do is to take this very favourable opportunity of coming to a settlement. The right hon. Member for Norwich accused my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme of saying that things were getting worse and that, therefore, we had better hurry up and do something before they got so bad that it would be impossible to bring about a satisfactory result. I think he misunderstood the argument of my right hon. Friend, which was that things were at present in a comparatively quiet condition, and that it was most desirable to take this opportunity of bringing about an effective and amicable settlement of this problem.
What is the line of action that I would recommend? In the first place, I want to put this question. Are we really in earnest in desiring that the people of India should have complete self-government? I think we are. I know that we, on these benches, and I think the great bulk of people in this country and the great bulk of Englishmen in India, are desirous of doing that, and of really fulfilling, practically and in a reasonable time, the express statements put into the Government of India Act. At the same time, we ought to recognise that there is a certain number of Englishmen who take a different view. I have talked to Englishmen who are working in India, who have said to me that while they, of course, agreed with granting complete self-government to India, they thought the time ought to be indefinitely postponed. I do not think that represents the best opinion in any part of this House, nor of many Englishmen in India who have expressed themselves as quite willing 1678 to work towards a speedy realisation of self-government, and, when that self-government became an accomplished fact, to fulfil a loyal part in trying to make it a success.
At the same time, I think there is a great deal required to prove the earnestness of the people and Government of this country in that attitude towards India. I do not think it is altogether surprising that there should be a certain amount of scepticism in India as to our real intentions in this matter. They have heard for a very long time past all the professions of our good will, and they have not found in times past that we were prepared really speedily to implement them. Therefore, it is very natural that they should be sceptical, and I think we have to take steps to dispel that scepticism, and one of the steps that I feel to be most important is that we should recognise their equality of status. After all, people will fight for status with at least as much vigour and determination as they will fight for liberty, and it very often happens that, when people ask for self-government, what they are still more concerned about is equality of status. So far as my observation goes, the sense of inferiority of status that is imposed upon Indians by many representatives of this country out there is the most serious thing which they have against our rule in that country, and I hope that every means possible will be taken to dispel that attitude. It may be that we do a great deal of practical work for the people of India, which their training or qualifications do not fit them to do for themselves.
There are two ways of doing that. Take, for instance, the legal business which is done for some persons who are not capable of managing their own legal affairs. The family solicitor, while managing affairs for his clients, does not impose upon them a sense of inferiority, whereas someone else taking an attitude of management may succeed in rousing in the person for whom he is managing a sense that he is a person not worthy of consideration. I think that is of the greatest importance, and it comes into this question of the Statutory Commission. It will make all the difference to the acceptance of the findings of that Commission in India whether we take one of two attitudes. 1679 Shall we take the attitude that we are appointing a Statutory Commission in order to decide what is good for India, whether the time has come to hand over to the people of India additional lollipops in the shape of approaches to what is asked for, or shall we take an entirely different attitude? Shall we go to the people of India and say, "We admit that you are anxious that this great country shall become a self-governing part of the British Empire. Now we want you to sit down with us and face the practical difficulties, and consider how soon and in what form this change shall take place. We want you with us, to find out what are the transition stages, and how best they can be bridged."
That can only be the case if the Government, in appointing this Statutory Commission, take care that they appoint upon it not merely members of this country of different views, not merely, perhaps, a number of Colonial statesmen, but also members of the Indian races themselves, and members who will really command respect by being representatives of the popular view in that great country. If they do that Members opposite may say, what hope is there of coming to any agreed and satisfactory report? With regard to that, I would like to call attention to the Sandhurst Committee. You had on that Committee Indians and Englishmen sitting together on a very intricate and vexed question. You had, after they had sat for some time, a unanimous report, because you had the wishes and the feelings of India and the practical mental working of the English men co-operating together to produce a scheme. I hope it may be possible, in the same kind of way, to get a satisfactory scheme to deal with this much larger issue of the whole future of India, and when the Commission is appointed I hope that the Government will encourage the Commission to take a large view. Of course, I know quite well that the Government will not, in so many words, limit the Commission's activities, to prevent it taking the wider view which all people of India might support, but I want them to do everything in their power to free the Statutory Commission from any idea that they want a narrow decision arrived at. And when the Commission report—that is, perhaps, 1680 looking a long way ahead—I hope that they will not take a narrow interpretation of the recommendations to which that Commission may come.
But the great point, after all, is the one which was made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. We on this side of the House are not so foolish as to ask that immediate, complete dominion self-government should be conferred upon the Indian people. We recognise that there are a great many things that must necessarily take place before that will come about. I do think the recommendations of the Sandhurst Committee have got to be put into immediate operation. That is why I regret very much the Government have made no start in carrying out those unanimously recommended proposals. But what we are asking is that the day of the lollipop shall cease, that the day shall have gone by when we can say that we in our pleasure will hand out, as we think fit, instalments of self-government. What we are suggesting for the Statutory Commission is that it shall fix the date when complete self-government shall come about, and that the steps necessary between that shall not be steps which it will be in the power of this House to withhold, but shall be steps of transition, arranged in advance in the Act which will have to embody the findings of the Commission.
I have already detained the Committee longer than I intended, but I do want to say a final word. This is, perhaps, the largest enterprise to which this country has ever put its hand. It is, perhaps, the largest enterprise to which any Government in the whole history of the world has ever committed itself. This is a question of the future rule of no less than one-quarter of the people of the whole world. We may fail. We may not succeed in establishing a Government of India on self-determining lines. But if, in spite of all the difficulties, in spite of all the obstacles of interests, or obstacles inherent in the problem, we are able to create a great self-governing part of the British Empire out of a people so different from ours as India is different from this country, we shall be able to look forward to the certain admiration of posterity.
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
I think the Committee will agree with me that both the speech to which we have just listened and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman from the Opposition benches look at the problem of further extension of self-government to India from a point of view which can only be that of people who have not been very closely connected with the Government of India in its more intimate aspects during the last few years. After all, to whom are we in this country ultimately responsible for our success or failure in this gigantic problem which we have undertaken in India? We are, of course, responsible, first and foremost, to the vast mass of the people of India themselves, whose happiness and future depend entirely upon how accurately, how carefully and how safely we take each step in the path we have chosen Then we have a responsibility, I think, to our own country. We have undertaken this experiment. If it fails, the reaction on our own future as an Empire will be enormous, and the reaction on our own prestige will be fatal. We have a responsibility also to the whole world, because we are making a great mistake if we imagine that a false step in India, bringing about, as it well may, disaster and chaos in a great area of the East, is going to be restricted in its effects to India alone If confusion, anarchy and chaos arose in India on the scale which is now seen in China, the reaction would extend far beyond the barriers of India itself, far beyond the East, and right into Europe itself. Therefore, while we all listened with the greatest interest and appreciation to the hon. Member, whose intellectual gifts I in common with all the rest of the House admire, I hope he will forgive me for saying that I think he took rather a doctrinaire view.
I should like the House to consider how the problem of the extension of government presents itself to others who are in the same position as myself, who, if I may say so with diffidence, have spent a great part of my life in India under various departments—the Army, the Public Works Department, the Civil Service and the Political Service. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) and the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick Lawrence) spoke on this subject as if all 1682 India were aching for self-government, were looking expectantly to this country to see what she was now going to do and what further steps she was going to take. Is that the case? Can one obtain any confirmation of that point of view from those who are intimately acquainted with the people of the upland areas of India, the people away from the cities? I do not think it would be any exaggeration to say that of the 300,000,000 people in India not 100,000 have ever heard a mention of the words "constitutional reform" or have the least idea of what is meant by the words "statutory commission." The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme spoke as if the further grant of self-government to India was going to give them freedom. How would that gift of freedom appear in the minds of those people, hundreds of millions of people up-country in India, if by it you are going to destroy order, destroy their peace, lay them open to famine and the interruption of all the advantages which our system has given them? Would they value that freedom or would they despise it? If the choice were given to them, and they had enough knowledge to make up their minds, they would say without any hesitation, "Let us continue the rule under which we have benefited; let us continue to enjoy the advantages which have been given to us, and let this academic question of who we are governed by be settled in a time when education is more advanced." As things are in India, it is no exaggeration to say that the whole demand for a further advance in self-government comes from a very small proportion of the people—an educated portion of the people, an able portion of the people, whose motives I do not intend to decry, but a portion of the people about whose judgment on this important question I have grave doubts.
It is common in this country to think that in the communities up country, the agricultural and rural communities, the people want to be governed by one of their own race. No greater mistake could be made. It is common knowledge to all who have served in India—I say it with no disrespect to the intelligentsia of the Indian people, many of whom I know well and amongst whom I have several personal friends—that when an Indian is appointed to an executive office, no matter how capable he may be, no matter 1683 how good his record, the next morning the official making that appointment opens his postbag with the certain knowledge that he will have communications from the people over whom that Indian is placed asking that a European should be appointed in his place. I mention that not to suggest that the Indian may not be just as efficient an administrator, but to show that there is no desire and no anxiety on the part of the great mass of the people for a further extension of self-government.
May I go on from this to disabuse hon. Members opposite of any impression which I may have given that we on these benches, and, still more, those who, like myself, have lived in India, wish either to put the clock back or to refuse to India the expectation ultimately of self-government? We do neither one nor the other. We do not want to go back on what has been done, nor do we think that what has been done is wrong. Long before Mr. Montague produced his reform scheme there was amongst the officials, military and civil, in India a very widespread feeling that something was overdue in the way of reform.
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
It has been thought in this country that we in this House stepped in like omniscient and beneficent autocrats and, against the wishes of the officials in India, bestowed a measure of reform on that country which the people desired and deserved. That is not so. Equally with people in this country, officials in India realised that some step forward was overdue. I do not say for one moment that they were unanimous in their approval of the length of the step taken. Unanimity on that would be impossible, and there are many who, like myself, although wishing some step to be taken, did think at the time that the step was too great, and have been astonished at the measure of success, small though it may be, which has attended the grant of the Montague reforms. To all who know India it is remarkable that those reforms are already showing signs that they will eventually work with great success throughout the whole of India, and we can welcome that success with great pleasure, even though we have to admit that in the beginning we did not foresee it. Are we now to 1684 take the further step advocated by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme and the hon. Member for Leicester?
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
What I was going to say is, "Are we now to take that step and say we will definitely fix the date by which we shall give to India a full measure of Dominion self-government?" I understood that the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme made that definite request—that we should fix the date now. Such a thing is entirely impossible in the present state of affairs. We can take a step forward one day under the safeguards of the preamble of the reform scheme, and no doubt such a step will be taken, but to attempt now to fix a date by which we shall finish the enormous task we have undertaken, to raise hopes which might not finally be fulfilled, to fix a date which we might have to alter, would be a foolish undertaking on the part of this country.
May I now turn to one or two of the other points mentioned by the Minister in the most admirable survey which he gave us in his speech? I wish to refer to the pleasure with which all on these benches heard that the recruitment for the Services in India is on the upward grade. I can, from my own personal knowledge, reinforce what he said. I have much correspondence with officials in India. Civil Servants, anyhow, are finding work in India under the reform scheme thoroughly congenial and thoroughly interesting; it is giving them full scope for all their ambitions and all their desires for service. I was also glad to hear that the Indian police, on whom so much depends, are obtaining their full measure of recruits. I would have liked to hear, and I hope I shall hear if the Minister speaks again, that recruitment is equally good in the Public Works Department. I am not sure about that. I have reason to think there is some difficulty in getting officials for the Public Works Department, and I should like to be reassured that it is not so.
The Minister told us we are not getting the full complement of officers that we need for the Indian Army. That is a very grave problem, and I welcome the 1685 promise of the Under-Secretary that it will not be lost sight of. I do not agree with the Noble Lord in the reason he gave as to why the hereditary military families of this country would not send the younger members of their families into the Service. The reason is that the officers of the Indian Army and the British Army are drawn from the same class. Before the War it was very difficult indeed for a person without private means to live in the British Service, and in the output of that hereditary military class there was always a large proportion who, for financial reasons, were unable to face service in the British Army, and consequently they turned to the Indian Army. Those inequalities no longer exist. People with limited means can now live comfortably in the British Service, and naturally there is a reduction in the number of those young men wishing to go into the Indian Army.
But there is another reason. Since the War there has been a tendency amongst young people to seek their livelihood and their careers in this country and not go abroad. We hear sometimes of the difficulty in obtaining members of the chartered accountants' profession to go abroad, and this applies to other arts and professions. I think all that will change, and in time we shall get the full number of candidates for commissions in the Indian Army. I would impress upon hon. Members to always remember that after giving full value to the desire to follow a career in which there is a spirit of adventure, there must be and should be a very considerable increase in the amount of remuneration that the officer of the Indian Army gets as compared with the officer of the Army at home. Last year a great step forward was made in the financial aspect of military life by giving grants to officers on a more generous scale than had been the case before. It may be that that policy will have to be continued. I am not in favour of an indiscriminate increase of pay to young officers in India, but I am inclined to think that you will have to make further additions to the pay of the senior officers and the young married officers if you wish to keep up the number of recruits necessary for the Indian Army.
1686 I was glad to hear from the Noble Lord his statement about the material benefits which have been conferred on India. He gave some interesting figures, but very often figures do not bring home to the mind the actual changes which have occurred. We have always got to remember in considering the problem of India that the really important part of the population of India is not to be found in the great cities. From our point of view in this House when we are dealing with this enormous Empire, the really important part of the problem in India is the vast population living up-country, far away from the cities. I have had some 30 years' experience in India. I have investigated the changes which have taken place in India up-country, and I can assure the House that there has been a most real and a very important advance in all that makes life worth living to those people who live in the up-country parts of India.
It is true that an enormous amount still remains to be done, but the salaries and wages paid in India are now higher and the means of communication have enormously improved. Education is becoming available for the people, and may I draw attention to the fact that the whole problem of India can be stated in one phrase "the extension of education." In that and in nothing else shall we ultimately find a solution of the Indian problem. In all these aspects and in everything that makes life worth living the position of the zemindar and the ryot living up-country has improved. There still remains the great difficulty against which the ryot has contended for centuries and against which he is contending now and will continue to contend for some time, and that is the fact that he was born in debt, lives in debt, and dies in debt to that class of parasite known as the Bunnia, the merchant. If this House could devise some means whereby the ryot and the zemindar could be made free from this evil we should be doing far more than can ever be accomplished by any academic discussion about advancing self-government in India or giving India a dominion status. If we could only accomplish that and free the zemindar from that evil it would bring happiness, contentment and real progress to more than one-half of those who inhabit the great Empire of India.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
The Under-Secretary of State for India spoke for an hour-and-a-half without wasting a single word, and he gave us a speech which was absolutely packed with information. Although I do not share political ideas in common with the Noble Lord, nevertheless I do admire good craftsmanship, and I am ready to extend even to my political opponents my appreciation of work well done. I am not going to follow the line adopted by previous speakers who are members of my own party. They have thoroughly covered the political ground. I agree with them that the Commission should get to work as quickly as possible. I want to know what is the position in India at the present moment, and what is going to be done immediately? I am not so anxious to know when the Commission will report and what its report is likely to be. I heard with much interest the statement made as to the improvements that have taken place in India during the last few years, and I am glad to hear of any improvement in any part of the British Empire.
After all, what is the position in India after we have been ruling that country for a century and a-half? The fact remains that, in India, after 150 years of British rule, human life is still as cheap as dirt. Let me give one illustration which will show what I mean. In Bombay I saw myself six men carrying a piano on their heads as if there were no wheels, or any other means of removing a piano. That is making men beasts of burden. We have finished a century and a-half of government, and we still leave men in that position, to be bought for a few pence a day, so cheaply that it does not pay, apparently, to make wheels in order that men should not be beasts of burden. I am sorry to say these things, because it is no credit to us that this state of things should exist, and it is not even economic that work should be done in this way. One sees, in travelling, men walking up and down the long rod of a pump to depress it and let it rise like a see-saw. Everywhere one goes, one sees the same antiquated manner of doing work, which might have been good in the Stone Age, but which still exists in India after a century and a-half of our rule.
§ Mr. SHAW
It may be the most efficient way of pumping water to walk on the rod of the pump from one end to the other, and depress it in a see-saw way, but, personally, I prefer other methods. I will say no more. I was much interested in the Noble Lord's remarks on housing. One must, of course, try and look at India objectively, and not from a party point of view. The hovels in Bombay, the chawls that are let by private landlords, are a disgrace to any humanity that ever existed in the world. Talk about dog-kennels! No self-respecting man would house his dog in these miserable, dirty, insanitary, dangerous hovels that one sees in Bombay.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman bring out the fact, which it is very important that the Committee should know, that these are exactly the hovels which the Corporation is trying to do away with, and that 99 per cent.—in fact, 100 per cent.—of them are owned by Indians?
§ Mr. SHAW
I have it on my notes. I have seen, in Indian villages, scenes the existence of which I should have thought absolutely impossible. When I think of the stench, the dirt, the tumbling down of mud huts, the dogs eaten away by disease, one is appalled at the very thought of What exists. Britons have paid a terrible price in India for their Empire in the lives and health of thousands. After a century and a half of our rule, I cannot claim to be proud of our record.
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how we are responsible for this?
§ Mr. SHAW
The hon. and gallant Gentleman himself said that the one thing necessary in India was education. We have been a century and a half in India, and 3 per cent. of the people have been educated. That is why we are responsible. 1689 If we had educated these people the hovels to which I have referred would not be in existence to-day.
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
As one who spent 16 years in India, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is entirely wrong. Very highly educated people live willingly in dwellings that he or I would not live in.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Perhaps I might give a personal example, which I think will interest the Committee. I was recently in a village in the Punjab, the name of which I will not mention, although, if I did, I should mention it with reverence, because it has a record of service in the War which has not been exceeded by any village in India. I was shown a very tumble-down house, and was told that it belonged to a gentleman who had done very gallant service in the Army, and who, largely by his own efforts, and as a result of the education he obtained, has risen to a very high position. He preferred to live in this house. He was asked, "Why do you, after all the advantages you have had, go back and live in a house like this? You have plenty of land; you are a rich man; you could buy another." His reply was, "It has always been the custom of the country for people like me to live in these houses, and, perhaps, I am as comfortable in it as you are in your ten-roomed house." That is a personal example.
§ Mr. SHAW
But the hovels to which I am referring in Bombay are inhabited by the textile workers of Bombay, not by the textile employers of Bombay, and the village to which I referred is a village of the depressed classes, not of the educated classes. If anyone believes that the things of which I am speaking are deliberately chosen by the educated people in India, I think the best thing for those who believe that is to get it out of their heads. Let me turn to an example that has been shown by two native States, Baroda and Indore. Both of those States have deliberately embarked 1690 on a system of compulsory emmentary education. I think that British India might well follow that example. I know it will be said that education is a transferred subject, and that, so to speak, the responsibility is now got rid of; but there is nothing on earth to prevent a forward Government from attempting to introduce the principle of compulsory elementary education in India.
§ Mr. SHAW
The Gaekwar, through his Prime Minister, has, it is perfectly true, protested against the lack of interest on the part of his people, but there has been no suspension, and the Gaekwar himself is determined that compulsory education shall be the rule in Baroda. There has been no suspension, to the best of my knowledge. I wish now to turn to another matter. I cannot discuss it in full, but a very large number of the Indians to whom I spoke, who were violent Home Rulers, seemed to have, at the bottom of their political faith, a sense of personal injury. Over and over again, to my astonishment, I found that, in cases where educated and rich men had gone over to the extreme side in politics, they had at some time been subjected to some personal indignity at the hands of some fool—I can use no other expression—and a fool can do more harm than 10 wise men can repair. I can give one instance of a man who is now, I believe, wielding tremendous influence in India, and who is determinedly, not merely a Home Ruler, but anti-British, which is a very different thing. I believe, from what I have heard and from what I know, that that man's political career was determined by the fact that a young ass of a Briton took his headdress off and threw it out of the train, because he ventured to go into a first-class compartment for which he had bought a ticket.
1691 That kind of thing ought to be stamped out by the Government, because one experience of that kind, in a country that is beginning to seethe with political feeling, does a very great deal of harm. I want to refer to the actual physical violence that is used by Britons on Indians, and I am going to refer to a case that came under my personal observation, in which a man was brutally beaten by his employer. I can scarcely find patience to describe what I think of a man who will deliberately inflict punishment on a man who for many reasons cannot hit back. I can understand a man beating another man if the other man has a chance of striking back, but the man who will deliberately inflict punishment on a man who cannot strike back is to my mind a bully and a cad, and ought not to be in the British service.
§ Brigadier-General CHARTERIS
Probably the right hon. Genetleman is not aware that any officer who did such a thing would be liable to be tried by court-martial and cashiered.
§ Mr. SHAW
If I am pushed to it I will give the name. I do not want to give the name, and I do not want to state the case distinctly enough to identify the man. I am merely asking that when cases such as I am going to describe take place, such an exemplary punishment should be meted out as absolutely to 1692 stop it, and if these cases were stamped out I am certain the effect in India would be so good that possibly a great deal of the bitter agitation that is now directed would die away and we should give the Indians the impression that if a European behaves badly he will be treated by the Court with more severity because he is a European and is educated.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I certainly do. I not only ask for it but I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to give it and I will investigate it.
§ Mr. SHAW
Very well. When I was staying at Spencer's Hotel, in Madras, I was on the side of the bungalows at the 2nd. At the 6th was an officer in the British Service who cruelly beat a man belonging to him. He was interrupted, in beating him, unfortunately, by a German. I saw the whole thing. That is the case.
§ Earl WINTERTON
This, is really a very important matter. May I say to Members of the Committee who do not know much about India, and think this may be an unimportant thing on a Friday afternoon, it is of tremendous importance. This story has been repeated by the German in question in a German paper and a friend of British India, a Swede wrote to me, though not knowing me, from Sweden saying he had seen the story, in the German paper. He said he thought it incredibly untrue. He had never seen such things happen, and he asked me to investigate it. I wrote about the matter to the right hon. Gentleman. I want to know—I am sorry to have to ask this—why, if this German, who was a delegate of the German Textile Union, who went with the right hon. Gentleman, saw this incident, they did not take the plain step that it was their duty to take and report the matter at once to the police.
§ Mr. SHAW
I am a Briton, as proud for the honour of my own race as any man on the opposite side. I object to these things taking place. I want to do no man a personal injury, but I am certain these things are doing us a great amount of harm in India. I merely mention the case in order that we may know in future that these things are being noted and will be dealt with if they arise.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I did not in the least intend to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's statement was untrue. I said as an example of British behaviour in India it was grossly false.
§ Mr. SHAW
That is exactly what I said myself. I said that one man of this kind could do more harm than 12 wise men could do good. The Committee may refuse to listen if they like but so long as I am alive in the House I shall try to tell the truth, whether it pleases hon. Members opposite or not. The Noble Lord shall have the name. Let me turn to another phase of the subject. It seems to be assumed, from a lot of the discussion that takes place, that India is one problem. India is simply a criss-cross of problems. It is like a spider's web problem where one cannot see the beginning thread or the end, and it is foolish to think that any one stroke, either self-government or anything else, is going to bring a solution of all the difficulties of India. I am afraid we concentrate too much on the political and forget altogether the purely economic side of the matter. There are many reforms in India that can only come from the Indians themselves and that no British Government could ever realise. There is the danger that Indian workers may be led to feel that all that is needed 1694 is that the British should clear out in order that the Indian position should be improved. S0 far as my experience went—and I visited a very large number of textile concerns—there is nothing to justify the idea that the Indian is a better employer than the European. On the contrary I found that, where European administration and management were noticeable, the conditions generally were superior to what they were where purely Indian capital and administration were involved. I believe the people of India have a right to manage their own affairs. There are many Indians who are in favour of Home Rule, who are Swarajists, but who believe that the rapid withdrawal of Britain from India would inevitably mean civil war.
It is a tremendously important problem to a Parliament which, after all, has been responsible for India for well over a century, to decide on matters which may not plunge India into a state of freedom and bliss, but may plunge her into internal quarrels, which will mean that her position is infinitely worse than to-day, but there can be no difference of opinion, surely, that the Government position ought to be to increase the possibilities of self-government as quickly as possible and not to give the Indians the impression that holding back is taking place from our side of the water. If we can make the Indians believe that this is our intention and desire, then, I think, a tremendous thing would have been done for the safeguarding of India as a future member of the British Empire. I am afraid that, if the thing is allowed to drag and Indians who are educated get the opinion that we are not serious in our desire to give self-government to India, there is an extraordinary danger of India becoming unfriendly to the British Empire rather than friendly.
I hope the ideas of the Noble Lord himself with regard to education and everything else will be realised. I am in absolute agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke before me when he said that the one thing needed in India is that Indians should be educated, that they should be able to know what other people believe and think, and that they should be able to manage their own affairs. I would like to mention one instance of the necessity 1695 of education in India. There is a Union of Textile Workers in Bombay managed by able men who belong to what is known as the Intelligentsia. They cannot get collectors or officers of their own or effective committee men, because they have not education sufficient to be able to write their own names. How can people of that kind realise their own liberty? People can only realise their liberty when they are educated, when they are able to know what people are thinking and doing in other parts of the world. That is the great necessity for common education which, in my opinion, is even more important than the vote.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Major-General Sir RICHARD LUCE
I just want to raise one point which was not referred to by my Noble Friend in his original speech. It is the question of the Indian Medical Service. I gather that the long negotiations and the long consideration of the future of that Service are now almost completed. These negotiations have been going on for what, perhaps, may seem to be a very long time. It is now over three years since the Lee Commission on the superior services reported on those services, and, although the findings of that Commission were largely implemented with regard to the other services, they were left on one side with regard to the Indian Medical Service. The idea, therefore, is that they are so near completion that, in his reply, my Noble Friend may be able to make some statement on the matter. I do not want to go into the details of the new scheme as far as I understand them to have been arranged at present, but I do wish to refer to what is the very unsatisfactory condition of the present recruiting of that Service. He has referred to the improvement in the recruitment of most of the superior services, but in reference to the recruitment in the Medical Service he has furnished me with some figures, and I find that at the present time there is a loss in the last five years of British medical officers in the Indian Medical Service of 61. That is, an average of 12 British medical officers per year for the last five years. The present strength of the British members of the Indian Medical Service is 489 and that of the Indians 158 to whom must be 1696 added 138 temporary Indian medical officers, leaving the proportion—1.6 British to one Indian. It has, I understand from my Noble Friend, been laid down that for the efficient working of the Indian Medical Service there should be at least a proportion of two British to one Indian officer, and, with the yearly loss of 12 officers, that proportion, which is already reduced to 1.6 to one, must very rapidly deteriorate.
It was laid down by the Lee Commission that it was necessary to maintain the definite proportion in the Indian Medical Service of British to Indian officers for two very important purposes, one of which is that our European officers serving in India as members of the Indian Civil Service and their families should have the advantage of having British medical officers attending them when they were sick. That seems to me important, and it was the idea of the Lee Commission. It was one of the ideas for the carrying on of the Indian Medical Service by British officers. The other requirement that was necessary was that there should be sufficient reserve of British officers for the Indian Army. That reserve was called upon to its very last ounce in the Great War, and it is absolutely essential, if you are going to have the Indian Army serve with the British forces wherever they may be, that they should have a sufficient proportion of British medical officers among them to bring about a proper state of efficiency in that Service. Therefore, it seems that we are in a position of very considerable gravity with regard to the Indian Medical Service at the present time. We have already a proportion of British to Indian officers which is considerably below the proportion which is considered necessary for the efficient work of the Service, and we have, further, a very rapid rate of diminution on that percentage.
With regard to what may be the causes of the unpopularity—which is quite obvious—of the Indian Medical Service, I am not able to say. Those points of unpopularity have been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke earlier with regard to other services, and the thing holds true with regard to the Medical Service. There is at the present time an unwillingness on the part of young doctors to go into any service abroad. Whether that is due to the loss of the 1697 spirit of adventure or whether the spirit of adventure has been exhausted by the great adventure of the Big War I cannot say, but the fact remains that we have a great difficulty in getting into our Medical Service, whether in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Indian Force, suitable medical candidates. I have gone carefully into the question whether that can have anything to do with the rates of pay or the conditions of service, but I do not believe it is at all due to either cause. I think the pay in the Indian Medical Service and the conditions of service compare favourably with the conditions in the other medical services at home. It cannot, therefore, be considered a question of pay. I think the great cause, apart from the one to which I have referred, is the spirit of uncertainty as to the future of the service which they are joining, and I believe that, if steps could be taken to get over that uncertainty which. I think, is due to the very long delay in bringing to completion the negotiations as to the future of the Service, confidence would be restored, and there would be a considerable possibility of getting the recruits in future.
With regard to the Indian Civil Service, two or three years ago, when there was a failure of recruits for that Service the Government undertook a sort of missionary service to the Universities. The Noble Lord, the Secretary of State himself, and I believe the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State also, took part in that mission. Lord Lloyd also took a great part in the mission in going to the University to try to persuade the young students who might be likely to go out to India shortly to join the Indian Civil Service, and that campaign met with great success. I believe that if a similar campaign could be undertaken by the Government at the present time, and if the Under-Secretary himself would visit some of the hospitals or encourage officials who happened to be at home at the time to go to the various hospitals in England to show them that there is an assured future—which I believe there is—for young medical students who join the Indian Medical Service, a great deal could be done to get over the difficulty and to ensure the satisfactory recruitment of these Services. If he will undertake that, I am sure he will receive the support of the whole body of the medical 1698 profession in England. The medical profession in England looks with grave disquiet upon the unsatisfactory state of the Indian Medical Service, and they will do everything in their power, I am quite certain, to further any efforts the Government may make to make the Service more popular in the future.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
It is with very great diffidence that I would like to support what the hon. Gentleman has said as to the very devoted and efficient services of the members of the Indian Services. I speak with diffidence, because, although I went to India, I only went there as a naval officer, and one of my chief interests was the shooting of snipe. There are a few points I wish to raise, and the first is this. There have been some extraordinary articles appearing in leading English newspapers in India, and they have received an echo in the "Daily Telegraph" in this country, suggesting that the Imperial strategy of the Empire is to be re-orientated and that the British Expeditionary Force in the future, instead of being based on Alder-shot, is to be transferred to India. The Noble Lord shakes his head, but I think, as these papers in India are apparently in touch with military opinion in India, there is something in it. These things are, perhaps, outside the Noble Lord's. cognisance.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite wrong in thinking that there is any official justification whatever for these statements. There is no official justification of any kind. They really emanate—and perhaps I know a good deal more about it than my right hon. and gallant Friend—from a speech which came from the fertile brain of Lord Haldane in another place. He made a suggestion on these lines. They have never received official sanction of any kind and the hon. and gallant Gentleman can accept it from me that it is a pure canard.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I informed the Noble Lord that I was raising this question, and what he says, therefore, is authoritative. I will only make this comment. Lord Haldane is a great master of strategy, and strategical plans of which Lord Haldaneapproves are very likely in future years to be approved 1699 by whatever party is responsible for the disposition of our forces. Therefore, I accept the Noble Lord's disclaimer at once, and I am glad that there is no chance of India being dragged into our Asiatic quarrels any more than she has been already.
In the Noble Lord's impressive and interesting speech nothing was said about the native States of India. Those States cover one-third of the area of India, and have 80,000,000 inhabitants. I understand that after the War certain requests were put forward by the native rulers which, I think, are very reasonable, and I would like the Noble Lord to tell me what progress has been made in this matter. If he has not time to reply to-day, perhaps he will communicate with me. One of the requests put forward was that the principal native States should have the right of access to the Government instead of going through intermediaries. I should like to know whether that matter has made any progress. Another point is, that I do not think it is altogether fortunate that there should be attempts made to Europeanise the Services of the native States. It is curious, when in all parts of the House Members are saying that they want to see a greater measure of Indianisation of the Indian Government, the very reverse process should have been taken in certain native States.
I do not want to go into the whole question of policy in connection with the native States—I have not time to do so, and this is not the place in which to do it—but I hear complaint about what I may describe, I hope without offence, as the policy of pin-pricks. These native rulers have been very loyal to us. They sent troops to the War, and, although many of their Governments have grave defects, many are enlightened. Why should the ruler of a native State, for instance, have to get permission from the Government to go to Simla in the hot weather, and sometimes be refused? The wealthy nabob or merchant can go without any permission, but the independent or semi-independent ruler of a native State has to get permission from the Government. These little things may not seem very important, but they do no good and do a great deal of harm. I am informed that there is great difficulty in 1700 regard to industrial development in these native States. For example, telephone development, telegraph and railway extensions are frequently held up, perhaps by the inertia of the bureaucracy, when permission is sought to make improvements and enlargements. That is a very bad thing if it be the case. These are simply examples.
We must be very careful—I know this is a thorny subject—in deposing a native ruler under our Treaty rights. He should be given every opportunity of offering a defence. However unfortunate his rule may have been, and however bad the state of his territory, he should have a chance of presenting his case. I think the demand put forward by the Chamber of Princes that before a ruling Prince is deposed he should have a chance of presenting his case before a Commission, under the chairmanship of a Judge, and with two of his Peers, his fellow Princes, sitting upon it, is reasonable. I do not want in any way to weaken the ultimate discretion of the Government, but there should be a fair chance of the ruler's case being fairly presented. It may not be thought of great moment to support these claims of the native rulers, but while we are responsible for the government of India we must from these benches claim equal justice for the highest in the country as for the lowest.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
My hon. and gallant Friend says that they get it. That is perhaps owing to the common sense and fairness of the Government. If we had Judges in the Courts in this country acting without juries I daresay they would dispense very evenhanded justice, but we prefer the jury system and we insist in our own Courts that anyone accused should have a chance of making a defence. That is all, I understand, that these potentates are asking. The Noble Lord is familiar with all the points I have raised, and I would like to know what progress has been made in the consideration of them. If he cannot reply now—I do not want to press him, after the long and exhaustive speech that he has already delivered—I should be much obliged if he would communicate with me.
§ Sir ALFRED HOPKINSON
Before coming to the two points to which I desire to speak this afternoon, I should like to refer to something which has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw). I feel most strongly that he is quite right in saying that nothing does more harm in India than anything in the nature of rude treatment. Nothing rankles more than insulting behaviour; there is no race in the world more sensitive than the Indian people. Any occurrences of the kind to which he has referred, however, are very rare, and certainly nothing is more deprecated by everyone connected with the Government of India. It is desirable, whenever such cases arise, that complaint should be made at once to the authorities, and they would be dealt with severely. I heard of one case many years ago where a young man made a very insulting remark to a distinguished Indian in one of the stores in Bombay. It was reported to the authorities, and the young man was told that he would be punished and that he must at once go and make an apology to the Indian gentleman he had insulted. He made the apology, but that was not sufficient to prevent the penalty being inflicted. And the Indian gentleman went to the authorities and begged that he might be dealt with less severely. That is the spirit in which those who are responsible for the government of India deal with any case of that kind if ever one arises. I agree very much with the right hon. Gentleman as to the vital importance of the question of education in India.
I should not venture to address the Committee, which contains many hon. Members who have spent long years in India, unless I had had some opportunity of seeing something of what is going on in the educational world in parts of India. It was my good fortune some years ago to be asked to go out to advise the University of Bombay as to the educational steps to be taken in the Presidency. The University was contemplating new developments, and they thought an Englishman might be of some help in advising them. I should like to say that I went out there with a feeling that before I could do anything whatever it was my business to discard English notions and ideas and go out as a learner. The worst thing any Englishman 1702 can do in India is to think he can dump down his opinions, and especially his political opinions. In India they are usually quite inapplicable.
Take, for example, what is called the plenary inspiration of the odd man, or the divine right of the odd man. To go out to India to preach that kind of rubbish is hopeless. You want to learn Indian conditions and to the best of your ability to understand the Indian mentality. I went out to India to learn, and, having learned, to give some advice. The longer I was there and the more intimate I became with the people, the more I loved the country and admired those with whom I came in contact. What I was perfectly satisfied of was that the one hope of India is the hearty co-operation in practical work of the Indian and the Englishman. Each supplies something; the Englishman provides something which is rare in India at the present time. To many of those who visit India there comes the feeling that a certain sadness broods over the country. There are evils to be combated. Among those evils are plague, pestilence, famine, ignorance and inertia, and, perhaps most of all, the difficulty that arises from the separation of creeds and classes. It is through the British working with the best educated and best informed Indians that progress can be made.
To talk of India as though it were a single unit is absurd as it is to say that there is a regular antagonism between the English and Indians. I found from morning to night that Indians came to talk to me as freely as if I had known them all my life. The first thing that the people of India want, the thing for which India is crying out, is scientific knowledge, and I have been very much pleased to hear that the Indian Civil Service is now being more favourably viewed by the young men in our schools and universities. There is no nobler career for a young man.
On visiting the various schools and colleges attached to the University of Bombay, I found that what the Indian student most needed was scientific knowledge based on actual observation of things. The ordinary Indian student is far too apt to deal simply with words, to repeat some jargon which he may have learned by rote. It is necessary in India that there should be a considerable number 1703 of English teachers. The Indian may be as good a man intellectually as the Englishman but if you want to get things done you must have the Englishman there.
Let us take a few examples of the kind of thing which is going on in India in regard to scientific investigation and the need which exists to have men with organising power as well as scientific knowledge. It is an Englishman, Major Glen Lisdon, at the head of the Parel Institute in Bombay, who has done so much to check the outbreak of plague. He has a staff of admirable Indian workers to whom he pays the highest tribute, but it was his organisation which enabled the requisite preparations to be made. Another case is the Pasteur Institute, and still another is the scientific work which is going on at Bangalore. The splendid work of the Indian Medical Service has already been alluded to and, having gone round the hospital in Bombay, I can say that I have not seen a better or more admirably equipped dissecting room than that which it possesses. There is another example of co-operation. The hospital was founded by an Indian, but it could not have been successfully carried on without English members of the medical service on the staff. In agriculture, at the Agricultural College at Poona under an English principal, investigations of the highest value have been carried out, and instruction given to young Indians who can go out all over the country and spread the knowledge which they have acquired there. In any branch of practical science in India you will find that the co-operation of Englishmen and Indians has been the salvation of the country. Let us get rid of the idea of exporting to them the kind of political rubbish which may do no great harm here but may be serious there, and let us supply the useful things which Englishmen can give to India and which Indians know they can give. We can supply, first, scientific knowledge, and, second, that peculiar power which the Englishman has of translating ideas into practice.
§ Sir A. HOPKINSON
Yes. In fact, one whom I had specially in mind is a 1704 Scotsman, and among the colleges which I had the opportunity of visiting, one of the most efficient and effective was founded through the efforts made by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Surely the Indians have done something on their own. I thought they had a great past.
§ Sir A. HOPKINSON
By all means. I went to a most efficient college, where every member of the teaching staff was an Indian, but it would have been much more efficient if there had been a little English admixture. The principal of that college was a man of the highest academic distinction. I had the pleasure of talking to the whole of his staff. and they said to me very naturally: "Cannot we manage ourselves without English members, and are not the members of the college as able as imported Englishmen might be?" I said: "Yes, no doubt, but I think that the staff of a university is like a salad. Get a variety of ingredients; if you have too much oil, add a little vinegar, and if you have too much vinegar, add more oil. It is far better, in my opinion, to have a mixed staff drawn from all sources, and it would be better if you hat a few Englishmen among you, not superior, but different."
What the Englishmen have done in combating real evils in India is deserving of the very highest praise and admiration. Sometimes it receives more recognition and acknowledgment in India than in England. I am sure that we in England are not half grateful enough to the men who have done such good work in India, especially in applying science to the needs of the country. Who is it, for example, who makes the predictions as to the monsoon which are so important for agriculturists in India It is Englishmen such as Sir Gilbert Walker, Dr. Simpson, and their successors in the station at Simla. As a rule, to get real scientific work done, British direction has been needed, and with Indian help, great results have been accomplished. Take again the leper hospital in Bombay, and see what grand work is being done by Englishmen there, in co-operation with Indians. I could multiply examples, but having seen what has gone on in the Indian colleges, I am quite satisfied that a great deal of admirable work has been done there and that some of the criticisms 1705 which we have heard of the work of those colleges have been ill-founded. The Indians can give much in return for what we have given them. I will not enter into that question now, but I do say that from the intellectual life of India we have a great deal to learn, just as Indians will have constantly to rely on the practical ability and energy of the Englishmen who work with and for them.
§ Mr. SPOOR
I would like to reply to one or two observations that were made in the speech of the Noble Lord in opening the Debate, a speech comprehensive in its character, very wide in its survey, and, as has already been said, a speech that was packed with interesting information. It was a speech which, from beginning to end, was extremely optimistic, although I do feel that subsequent speeches did appear to indicate a lack of basis for that optimism. It is very difficult, indeed, to be optimistic about a country like India, when one remembers not merely the conditions existing there at the present moment, but the conditions which have existed for many years in the most trying crisis through which India has been passing. We have been discussing, I take it, the moral and material progress of India. As was pointed out by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), although it may be that there has gone on a great deal of social work, although there may be, here and there, improvements, the outstanding fact upon which we on this side of the House, at all events, wish to concentrate, is that India is not yet free, and we are endeavouring—not alone, I believe, for I am sure we have the co-operation of many Members on the other side of the House—to bring a little nearer the day when that great country will enjoy that freedom, that equality of status amongst the nations of the world which is her inalienable right.
The noble lord, in indicating the progress that had taken place during recent years, referred to the fact that there was more local government actually going on in India than was generally realised in this country, that there was a great deal of municipal activity. The tragedy is, that with all that municipal activity, there is comparatively little real progress education. The Noble Lord knows the 1706 reason. He knows it is because we British people take so much money of the taxation of India to maintain services, such as the fighting services, that it is utterly impossible for Indian municipalities to keep that amount for educational purposes which they certainly need. It is no good talking about India's advancement in education when it is remembered that 93 per cent. of the population of that country are still regarded as technically illiterate. Even the Noble Lord himself admits admits that the diarchical system does result in impoverished conditions so far as transferred subjects are concerned.
Had there been time it would have been possible to deal with many other points which the Noble Lord put forward. He quoted the case of an old civil servant who had devoted the best years of his life to serving the people of India. I am happy to think that a great many British people who have gone out to India have loved the Indian people, have served the Indian people and have won the respect and the affection of the Indian people. I appreciate the picture he drew when describing that Indian civil servant, when the time came for him to retire, being filled with a sense of real disappointment at realising there was so much yet to be done, and feeling that the great obstacle was what the Noble Lord called the apathy and the indifference of the people. He went on to say that this apathy and indifference were rooted not so much in ignorance as in inherent ideas. There we come to the crux of the problem of the Indian situation. The last speaker pointed out the utter folly of attempting to impose upon India Western methods and Western ideals which in any way conflict with their own particular ideas. Every one who is acquainted with the East knows that certain fundamental differences in history, in tradition and in outlook have to be allowed for when dealing with such a complicated problem as the Indian Constitution presents. This refusal on the part of certain Indians to accept the imposition of Western methods appears to me to be quite in accordance with the peculiar genius of the Indian people, and it is one of the factors with which we must reckon in our relations with India. The Noble Lord quoted a number 1707 of Acts passed since the reforms came into operation. I think he made a mistake when he said "we" passed those Acts. I rather believe it was the Indian people themselves, who, at the first opportunity they got, passed those Acts.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Nearly all the Acts were introduced by the Government in the first instance. They were Government Bills.
§ Mr. SPOOR
I want to leave some time for the Noble Lord to reply, but I would like to mention that it was my privilege to take part in the Debates in 1919 When the Government of India Bill was introduced, and I was a Member of the Joint Committee of the Lords and Commons which had that Bill under consideration for several months. I well remember those discussions carried on under the leadership of the late Mr. Edwin Montagu, than whom India never had a better friend in Britain. I remember the way in which certain Members of this House in the course of these discussions expressed serious apprehension as to what was going to happen if those reforms were actually carried, and in the Committee they moved Amendment after Amendment to limit the operation of those reforms. Some hon. Members on this side of the House took the contrary view. We wanted to see much wider reforms. We proposed Amendments in that direction, and between the two sides the Secretary of State for India piloted his Bill through. At that time we asked, and we repeat the demand to-day, that India should be recognised as a free, equal, unfettered partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a member of his own party denied in this Debate that that was the policy of the Labour party?
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
It is not a question of an individual opinion. A quotation was read from a. resolution passed by the Labour Congress, and we were told that that was the view of the Labour party.
§ Mr. SPOOR
I have here an official record of the resolution, part of which was quoted, and I can assure the hon. Member for Kidderminster that, so far as we are concerned, the Labour party still stands for the free and unfettered partnership of India in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and we have always urged the Indians to co-operate with us in order to secure that object as effectively as possible. I repeat that demand which has been expressed in congress resolutions on more than one occasion. The great point I want to stress this afternoon, which has already been referred to by previous speakers, is the question of the Statutory Commission. I am quite sure that not only are the people of India looking for some definite declaration on the part of some responsible Government spokesman on this matter, but the people of Britain are also anxious to hear some declaration of that kind. When the Bill dealing with Indian Reforms was being considered by the Joint Committee, I moved an Amendment urging a much shorter period than ten years for revision. I hope the Noble Lard will be able to say this afternoon that the Statutory Commission is going to be appointed immediately, and I trust he will give us some indication as to its composition and character. I hope he will be able to assure us that there will be adequate representation on that Commission of every shade of opinion that can possibly be secured—I am referring to legitimate responsible opinion in India. I hope those representatives will be elected by Indians. Unless that is done 1709 I am afraid the Indian people may decide that they will have nothing to do with that Commission, and that is the sort of thing which we want to avoid.
In closing, I just want to say this. There is a small audience here this afternoon, and I cannot appeal to the far vaster audience that we can imagine will listen to the speeches that have been delivered to-day. I can picture, in the course of the next few days, gatherings of Englishmen in the clubs and in Calcutta and Bombay; I can picture Indians reading the vernacular papers, and even those who cannot read themselves having the story read to them. Over 300,000,000 people, really, will listen to this Debate. I hope that the Debate will take to them some message of promise and some message of hope. Let there be no poverty of imagination on the part of the British Government in approaching this great question. I believe, myself, that we can, by sanity, secure an emancipated people, contented in working out its own destiny in accordance with its own ideals; and that that will not only stabilise the Eastern world, but will bring a measure of lasting peace to all the nations of the earth.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I did not intend to take up any more of the time of the Committee to-day, having already occupied so much time at the beginning. If I am to reply to the serious matters raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor), it will be impossible for me to do so within the limits of Parliamentary time to-day, because he dealt with some of the most fundamental matters in connection with India that can possibly be dealt with. I have been thinking, during the two or three minutes that I have had to think—I did not realise that the right hon. Gentleman was only going to give me eight minutes—about those points with which I can deal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ten minutes!"] There is some difference between eight minutes and ten minutes. I make no complaint of that. I was perfectly willing not to rise at all, realising that I had already taken up a good deal of time, and I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was only going to raise some question of detail, but, for such important questions 1710 as he has raised, he has not left me very long in which to answer. [Interruption.] If the Opposition wish me to reply, perhaps they will allow me to do so in my own way. If they do not wish me to speak, I will sit down. I was going to say, in the first place, with regard to the case mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), that I think I ought to make it clear that it may be difficult at this distance of time to take any proceedings against the officer in question, because the right hon. Gentleman did not take the course which was open to him at the time, of reporting the matter to the police.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I advised the man to take action. I advised his representatives to take action in Madras itself.
§ Earl WINTERTON
What the right hon. Gentleman should have done was to have gone to a policeman or a magistrate and reported the case to him. It was his plain and obvious duty to take that course. It is the duty of any citizen in this country, let alone a Member of Parliament, if he sees an aggravated assault committed upon an individual, to report the matter to the police. The right hon. Gentleman did not do that, but he has produced the story here after the lapse of about six months. I, therefore, take the opportunity of saying—I take the responsibility of saying, on behalf of everyone on this side of the House—that I regard with the greatest suspicion the story which the right hon. Gentleman has told. I think it is very likely that his recollection is entirely at fault.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that if he likes, and I am equally entitled to tell him that I regard the story with the greatest suspicion. I have told the right hon. Gentleman so, and I trust that it will be recognised in India that not everyone in this country accepts such a cock-and-bull story as we have been told to-day. Had the right hon. Gentleman given us the name, had he given us the place, had he given us anything—he gives us nothing at all—
§ Earl WINTERTON
I do not propose to indulge in any further recriminations but I say this: I stand here with indignation to have heard any right hon. Gentleman from the Front Opposition Bench make a charge of this kind against a British officer without having the courage to mention the name.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Now at long last we have the name out of the right hon. Gentleman, after six months. I am afraid I have to charge the right hon. Gentleman with a breach of duty. If he had reported the matter at once to the police it would have been investigated. What evidence have we got at this time? Had he and the representative of the German Textile Union gone to the police the whole matter would have been thrashed out in Court, and he and the German representative would have been subjected to cross-examination, presumably by the lawyer defending Mr. Bramby. But he waits until he gets back to this country and until the German gentleman has gone to Germany before he brings the facts out in public. It is true the German brought them out in the Socialist paper "Vorwaerts," but it is the first time we have bad it mentioned in the House.
One has very great personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman. There are few on that side of the House for whom I have greater respect. I greatly regret that he has dealt with the matter in the way he has. On behalf of everyone who belongs, to use an old-fashioned term, to the Tory party, we resent most strongly this sort of accusation against people who are serving their King and country in India, who have done probably 1712 as much for their King and country as any single Member opposite. On my own behalf, I am not in the least angry, but I am always angry when we have slurs and accusations of the kind that have been brought to-day against officers and servants of the Crown who are not here to defend themselves. The right hon. Gentleman distinctly stated that other instances have occurred in the past, but they are very rare indeed. If they are not rare, what is the object of mentioning an incident without bringing in the name. [An HON. MEMBER: "Friends of every country but their own!"] It is the old historic policy of hon. Members opposite. They do not attempt to answer arguments put forward on this side of the House. Their whole idea is to make it more difficult to carry on the Government of India.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
If the right hon. Gentleman applies that to any individual, I must tell him that it is not a Parliamentary expression that is used in this House. I must ask him to withdraw it; otherwise, I shall have to ask him to leave the House.
§ Earl WINTERTON
If it will make the position easier, I am quite willing to withdraw the word "always," but I think they frequently do.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The Noble Lord has now withdrawn the statement he made, and the right hon. Gentleman should so withdraw his comment on that statement.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must take the right hon. Gentleman's own words, accusing the Noble Lord of lying. That is an accusation against an hon. Member of this House, and the right hon. Gentleman must withdraw it.
§ It being Four of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next, 11th July.